Called By Name

April 10, 1999

I attended a funeral yesterday, for a woman of my congregation who died in her husband’s arms Easter Sunday morning, probably as the Gospel was being read at our early service. That reading was John 20, in which Mary Magdalene doesn’t recognize the risen Lord until he says her name. The deceased woman’s name was Mary. What a lovely synchronicity.

When it comes to spirituality, I am not a mystic. Nor am I a charismatic, a stigmatic, a channeler, or a witch. I am a very normal suburban woman who spends much of her time watching television, doing housework, reading novels, shopping at the supermarket, and forgetting to say her prayers. But sometimes the Lord does speak to me, in a voice as strong and clear as that of James Earl Jones. These moments are few and far between, and they are as brief as the blink of an eye. But I know that they are real.And it was in one such moment that I was given a new name, Mull, the name by which he calls me.

It happened in the supermarket. I needed something for dinner, something for my daughter’s lunch the next day, and something else but I couldn’t remember what, and I had a paper due in the class I was taking and I was starting on another and the design wasn’t working out and I had two sets of papers to read in the classes I was teaching and new member profiles to write for the church newsletter and bills to pay and forms to file and a new book I’d read just a little bit of that I wanted to have more of, and friends I wanted to see and places I wanted to go. And everything seemed jumbled and my want-tos and my have-tos were all tangled.

I thought about a colleague I’d visited that morning who had every hair in place and a neatly-ordered desk. I envied the way she crossed off each item on her bulleted list with a single strong strike-through as our discussion progressed. And I got very mad at myself for having so many things going at once and not even knowing where my list was.

I was standing in front of the processed meat case — bins full of hot dogs and bacon and boiled ham and fat-free turkey breast all sealed in plastic. I looked up at the pre-packaged lunches, little squares of cheese and meat and crackers and a tiny candy bar for dessert and a drink tucked in there too, each in its own little compartment of a white plastic tray. I wanted my life to look like that.

It was then I heard the voice.

Your friend is an Oscar Meyer Lunchable, it said. You, my dear, are a lovely mulligatawny.

Mulligatawny — my favorite soup. You start by slicing whole carrots and onions and green bell peppers, then sauté them in butter, add broth, some shredded chicken that you’ve cooked separately, and some diced tomatoes, a pinch of mace and then just a little curry powder. Finally, at the end, the thing that makes the difference: chopped green apple for a little kiss of sweetness. It’s a rich and complex set of flavors, and every ladle full pulled up yields a different mix.

That’s you, Mull, said the voice. A flavorful blend, full, rich, and satisfying. That is how I made you, and that is what you are.

I don’t always remember that it’s okay to be who I am. I still berate myself on occasion for being scattered and letting my attention wander, for not having the qualities I see in others who seem far more successful than I. But I try to remind myself that that is “Lunchable Thinking,” and I am a fine mulligatawny.

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