Thomas Gerald Lewis: That’s the name I was given at birth.
My parents and namesakes, Thomas Jefferson and Geralene, shortened it to Gerry and that’s what I’ve been called most often for these 50-plus years.
I’ve inherited a few other monikers along the way. In sixth grade, one of my friends started calling me “Dumbo” because I had not yet grown into my ears. My pastor and mentor, Roland Earl, called me “Goober.” Once I became a pastor, both Gerry and Lewis often got preceded by “Brother,” “Pastor” and “Reverend.”
That last one was my least favorite. I’ve always been more irreverent. When I completed my doctorate, I gained “Dr. Lewis,” “Dr. Gerry,” “Dr. Lew” and “Dr. G.” A couple of my associate pastors called me “Master Doctor” and “El Doctoro.” Once I started writing about Mrs. Sweetie, it wasn’t long until “Dr. Sweetie” came about.
Twenty-five years ago today (May 5), I got a new name that was a game-changer: “Daddy.” I think back to the time when I couldn’t wait to hear that baby girl say “Da-da” for the first time. What an amazing sound!
She has grown up to be a wife and high school teacher and my heart still melts when that name crosses her lips. She’s one of those important women in my life that I have been writing about for a few weeks. When she ends a phone call with, “I love you, Daddy,” I can’t feel anything but amazed and blessed.
There is a common thread that runs through this process of the acquisition of new names. Each one came about because of a change in circumstances or location or because of a significant event. Another common thing about those new names is that they were in addition to, rather than instead of, the previous ones (with the exception of “Dumbo” and “Goober” – those did eventually go away).
However, there was another significant event and change that resulted in some new names that were not simply additions; they were exchanges. The event was responding in faith to the grace of God offered through Jesus Christ. When I did that, everything changed.
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1). You were separate from Christ … without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13).
“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds … But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22).
“You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25).
New names, new focus, new destiny. Talk about a game-changer.
Dr. Gerry Lewis is director of missions for the Harvest Baptist Association, which is headquartered in Decatur. He writes a blog at www.lifematterstoday.blogspot.com.