Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was lost, because he had forgotten his name. He had no idea who he was. He had been called many things in his short life, and he remembered them all, but none had told him who he was. Each of these names had stuck to him like a very sticky sticker that doesn’t come off unless you scrub it many, many times. A father had once called him, “worthless”. A mother had once called him, “trash”. Another big person had called him, “stupid”, and a teacher had called him a “terror”. This little boy had no name, but he did have many sticky stickers.
One sticker had stuck even stronger than all the rest. This sticker had been given by a father numerous times. When the little boy looked down at his heart, it was covered in big, ugly black words: “unwanted” and “abused”. When he looked at the words, he remembered how that daddy had hurt him. He remembered all the times the daddy had put the stickers on his heart.
The little boy had a memory for every sticker… But he could never remember his name.
By the time this little boy was six years old, he had gone to six different homes looking for his name. In each home he entered, he would give the big people names. Deep down, in the secret thoughts of his little heart, he told himself, “Perhaps if I give them a name, they will tell me who I am.”
So he named them, “daddy” and “mommy”.
He named other big people “aunt” and “uncle”. He named the bigger kids “brother” and “sister”. He wanted them to know who they were, just as much as he wanted to know who he was. This little boy was so kind, he never wanted anyone to feel the way he felt without a name. He put strong stickers on other people, but they did not always appreciate his kindness. Many of them worked hard to pull those stickers off, and the little boy noticed. He was so angry with them! Could they not see that he just wanted them to know who they were? Did they not know that he needed them to tell him his name?
His anger was bigger than he was at times, so people put more stickers on him. “Out of control”, “monster”, “destructive” were stuck to him every day… but none of them was his name.
One day the little boy looked down and saw that he was covered in stickers. He decided on that day that he would never know who he was and that it would be better if he were not alive. The little boy took a jump rope and wrapped it around his own neck.
The little boy was sent to the hospital… And then to another home. Another home to be labeled. Another adult to reject him. Another family to lose. The little boy with no name had lost all hope.
But this home was different, which, of course, the little boy did not see at all. Even his eyes were covered in stickers by now! The mommy and the daddy didn’t put stickers on their kids. They asked questions. They listened. They laughed together and they cried together. They made mistakes and they said, “I’m sorry” to one another. They named each other every day, but there were no stickers involved, just strong words. And the words were kind. And the words were safe. And the words were like a warm hug.
The little boy was confused. The little boy was angry. The little boy was sad. But the family did not send the little boy away. They did not put stickers on him. Instead, they asked the little boy for his stickers. At first, he did not want to give them his stickers, because that is all the little boy had known. He held tight to his stickers, but deep in his heart, he could feel all the sticky stickers loosening from him.
Until one day, a sticker fell off and drifted lazily to the floor. The little boy reached down and grabbed it. He looked at it in the palm of his hand in wonder. The sticker had lost its stickiness! The little boy tried to stick the sticker back to his sweater, but it wouldn’t stick!
The little boy noticed how easily the stickers began to fall off. They were not sticky stickers anymore. They had lost their stickiness! Wherever the little boy went, he left a trail of stickers. And the mommy and the daddy quietly picked them up and threw them in the trash, never to be seen again.
The stickers on the little boy’s hands and feet were the first to go. He stopped hurting others. He stopped making unsafe choices. He felt safe with the new family, so he did not run away anymore. But some stickers were harder than others. Those stickers on his heart were the strongest of all.
And then one day, a strange thing happened.
The mommy said, “You know, little boy, I know a man who can remove all your stickers and tell you what your name is. This man is the reason mommy has no stickers. This man is the reason I don’t put stickers on my sons.” By this time, the little boy had begun to trust the sticker-free mommy. So he said to the mommy, “Tell me who he is and where I can find him.”
The mommy looked into the little boy’s eyes, and she loved the little boy. “His name is Jesus. He is God and He made you. He formed you when you were in your mommy’s tummy, and He gave you a name that can never be removed,” she said, smiling. “Would you like to meet him?”
That was the day Jesus visited the little boy. His face was so kind, the little boy felt safe right away. When he looked between Jesus and the sticker-free mommy, he realized something special: The mommy looked a little bit like Jesus! The little boy wondered to himself, “Is Jesus Mommy’s daddy?”
Jesus asked the little boy, “May I have your heart?” Without hesitation, the boy with no name gave Jesus his heart. Jesus held the little boy’s heart in his strong hands and picked off every sticker that was left there. He washed away all the sticky residue. He removed every big, black, ugly word that had been engrained on the little boy’s heart and mind.
And Jesus named that little boy, “Son.” Jesus said, “You are mine, my very own precious son. I made you, I know you. You are not lost. You have a name. I call you, SON.”
Now the little son tells everyone, “I know who I am. I have a name that can never be taken away. Jesus has called me His son.” And the mommy and the daddy who introduced the little boy to Jesus are filled with joy, because they know one day the little boy will be a daddy – a daddy who introduces his children to Jesus. The little son will become a man who names each child with strong, safe, loving words, words that are like a warm hug. And the son’s words will direct the hearts of his little ones back to Jesus.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Hear Their Voices