I remember waiting in the bathhouse with ten or so impatient campers. We had an hour set aside to wash up before breakfast, but since there were only three working showers, the majority of time was spent standing around. I had just finished shaving and had a good-sized gob of shaving cream left in my hand, so I decided to put it to good use. “Line up!” I said; the awkward adolescents made their way over to see what I was going to do. I went to the first boy, smudged my thumb with cream and began drawing lines on his face in what I hoped would look like some kind of native design. “You are Wild Wolf,” I said in a deep voice, “Brave and true, a defender of the weak. You will be a great leader of men…” and on and on.
I went on like this down the line of boys, giving each one a different shaving cream “war paint” design and a new name to go along with it. I was improvising. I was playing. But I quickly discovered that they were not. The young men hushed and drew close to hear what name I would say, to find out what kind of identity I would see and call out in them. Each boy lifted his face to meet the “paint” while drinking in my words greedily, some even ran back to the cabin to grab a pen and page so they could remember their new name word for word.
What was happening? Why had this little time-passing game taken on such meaning to these kids? I quickly realized something I had been seeing all summer as a camp counselor: young people, boys especially, are desperate to find out just who they really are. And if there’s no one there to show them the way, to see something good and alive and even daring in them; to call it out and nurture that identity, then surely they will look for a name somewhere else.
So I want to give my son a name. I want to give him an invitation to be someone who has something real and important to do. A few hundred years ago our communities needed young men, without whom they couldn’t survive. Now all we need from them is to sit still until the bell rings. And they know it. So they go where they’re needed, even if they know it’s not right or even real. Everything from gangs to video games—after all, aren’t most video games just a way of temporarily being someone else who has a significant role to play in an important story?
A good name is like a path in all this wandering wilderness—an invitation, a summons, a call to go a certain way. Granted, a road still has to be walked for it to make any difference, but even so, it’s a start. Names have been used like this in cultures all around the world for thousands of years, most famously in the biblical Hebrew culture, and I want to carry on the tradition. That’s why my son’s middle name will be “Danger.” And yes, I’m serious. First, because what little boy wouldn’t want to be able to say that Danger is his middle name and actually be telling the truth? And second, because I want my son’s name to be a constant reminder of God’s call and claim upon his life. To be a doer. To be an active participant in Christ’s unfolding Kingdom. To be filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus that is always dangerous and destructive to the Enemy’s causes.
Looking around (and I must confess, looking in the mirror), it seems we are under the impression that a Christian man is simply someone who thinks certain things, who believes certain things, who has certain “Christian” opinions. But no matter how much we’d like to believe it, I don’t think our Enemy shutters at our opinions. I don’t think he is threatened, dare I say, even by our beliefs. It is only when the power of Christ’s boundless love takes root in one’s hearts that the fruit of action burst up all over to threaten the dominion of darkness. This is dangerous. And sadly, this is rare.
Being dangerous doesn’t always look how you’d think it would. In a culture that prizes quick fixes and easy-way-out-solutions, it might simply mean being in one place for a while. It might mean leaving your comfort zone to do the right thing. It might mean being mocked and laughed at while going out of your way to befriend the friendless. It might mean having the courage to tell the truth when telling a lie would produce better results. It might mean being vulnerable so that others can lower their guard and feel safe. Whatever it looks like, my son’s name will be a constant call to follow The Dangerous One, who relentlessly threatens the seeds of loneliness, despair, isolation, hatred, shame, and sorrow planted by our Enemy. I want my son to know that being a follower of Jesus means being dangerous.