Hi. I’m Ken Jones, and this is A Classic State of Mind, with a word about … Names.
When you grow up with a name like mine — a name like Jones, and you are in the third grade, and Miss Jordan assigns seats on the first day of class, you know where you are going to sit for the rest of the year, before she even tells you. You are going to sit somewhere in the middle.
Miss Jordan seated everyone alphabetically. That meant Ben Allen was going to be in the first seat. Miss Jordan was predictable in that sense. In school, when you had a name like Jones, you never got to sit in the front of the class. For that matter, I never got to sit in the backseat, either, away from the glaring eyes of Miss Jordan. That seat was always for Ron Yates. His name began with “Y”, and for nine whole months, he got to sit back there with Janet Rhine and pass notes and eat sunflower seeds and have fun.
Me? I was in the middle. I was in the third row and the third seat — right where Miss Jordan stood when she talked about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. My seat was the fulcrum of the class, you might say. She used my desk when she lectured about balance and levers during science.
My desk sat right in the middle, so when the teacher let the front of the alphabet go to the lunchroom first, I had to wait for half of the kids in class before my turn came. Sometimes, she wanted to be fair, and she started with the end of the alphabet, and Ron Yates got to go first. That lucky dog. He got the best seat in the class, and he even got to go to recess first once in a while.
But me? I was in the middle — third row, third seat. Miss Jordan never once in nine months looked at me, and said, “Kenny Jones, you’ve been so patient. Today we will start with the J’s. You can go first.” The reason, of course, was that I sat in the middle, and people in the middle rarely get to be first.
I do not recall any teacher ever asking me for the correct spelling of my name either. Such a common name. Such a simple, short, easy to say name. Everyone knows how to spell that name. Everyone knows how to spell Jones.
In high school, I heard teachers ask Marie Fryntzko about her Serbian name. They’d stumble over its pronunciation and say it slowly several times so they’d remember it. Fryntzko is hard to say.
I’ve heard people ask Ward Tanneberg about his name. He’s my friend — one of my very best friends. And he has a Danish name. I know people ask him where his name came from, because I’ve heard them. I’ve heard them ask him to spell his name slowly and clearly, so they’d get it right. But people don’t do that with Jones. They don’t need to, because everyone knows how to spell Jones.
Everyone knows how to spell God too. Such a common name. Such a simple, short, easy-to-say name. Everyone knows how to spell that name.
It’s such a common name that people take liberties. They attach vulgarities and obscenities to that name without a second thought. They blaspheme and blame and belittle that name.
They don’t let Him sit in the very front seat of their lives. That’s for the As — the top priorities, the plans and ideas and dreams that don’t take a back seat to anyone or anything. They’re not nervy enough to send Him to the back row. They still think of Him sometimes. They still know he’s there. But He’s always there. Familiar, easy, and His name is as common as Jones.
And so, many people put God in the third row, third seat of their lives. The One whose name is above every name, the One who is from everlasting to everlasting. They send Him, like a third grade school boy, to be lost in the anonymity of the third row of their lives.
That ought not to be. He deserves better. His sacrifice deserves better. His name deserves a higher place of honor, because … well…
The Book says, in Ps. 111:9:
“Holy and awesome is His name.”