Monday, May 24, 2010

What's in a name?

Philippians 2:9-11 (New International Version)

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Many of you know me as Elbert LaGrew, but do you know my middle name? I'll give you a hint, it starts with 'D'. OK, that's not really fair. My middle name is DeWitt. Elbert DeWitt LaGrew. For those of you who are interested, another blog posting will deal with my First and Last Names...yes, there is a story behind that as well.

Growing up I never knew exactly where that name came from. Nobody in our family is named 'DeWitt' and that is really not a common name at all anyway. In my early school years I was teased without mercy when people found out my middle name. I heard, "Ha, ha! Elbert 'De Witt's not so witty!." or "For a Wit, you are pretty dull." Or many other variations along those lines. As a kid, these were really hurtful and of course drove me into even more desire to stay away from people. I realize now, looking back, that I spent much of my childhood in self-loathing and misery. I made a good front of fighting it by over compensating to the point of being just a loud-mouthed buffoon, which of course only served to alienate me more than I already was.

When I was in High School and after a particularly bad day of being teased and trounced, I had had it and I worked up the courage to ask my Dad just where that stupid middle name of mine came from. Why did I have to have such a name that caused me so much pain and teasing. My father told me this:

When I was in High School, I joined the Marine Corp. I knew I was going to get drafted anyway and I didn't want the government telling me which branch of service I could be in, so I enlisted. I was barely over 17 but they took me anyway. I went through boot camp and I thought I was so tough. I was in great physical shape and of course I had my greatest asset, my teen age intellect.

I was shipped to the South Pacific. On our way over there in the transport ship we ran into a typhoon. It was the only time I got seasick, but it was mainly because everyone else was so sick, you just couldn't help it. We were in rough seas for about 5 days. When we arrived we found out our first assignment was on Saipan. I had never been in combat before, but I sure was looking forward to fighting.

Combat turned out to be nothing like I had imagined. It was the most horrible experience of my 17 years of life. One night, a group of us were sent out on a silent reconnaissance mission. Basically, what we were expected to do is to travel behind enemy lines at night and try to find out more about our enemy. We were not to shoot our weapons...we were to travel unseen and unknown. It we were caught, we were expected to fight, but it would be hand-to-hand.

My Sergeant, was named Sergeant DeWitt. He was a massive man, about 6 foot 6 and about 250 pounds. He was also an old man at 26 years old, at least compared to me. I was 5 foot 9 and about 150 soaking wet and I didn't know it at the time, but I was wet behind the ears as well.

While we were on patrol, we had the misfortune of running into some Japanese soldiers who were on the same mission as we were..silent reconnaissance. It was dark, but there was some moonlight when the fighting began. I suddenly found myself surrounded by 5 Japanese soldiers and I knew...I KNEW I was going to die. There was no chance for me to fight them all. I was well trained and had youth on my side and even my expectation of immortality, but it all left me that night as I stared certain death in the eye.

All of a sudden, from no where it seems, there was Sergeant DeWitt! He, without hesitation, jumped between me and the enemy soldiers...in a few seconds it was all over. I surveyed the area in unbelief...there were 5 dead Japanese soldiers all killed by Sergeant DeWitt. But there also lay my Seargeant...I craddled his head in my arms as he was dying and I promised him with all my heart, "Sarge, if I ever leave alive from this hell-hole and get married, I will name my first-born son after you.". And that is how YOU got your name...son.

I was crying by this time and of course I was embarrassed to do that in front of my Dad. But I will tell you one thing..I was NEVER embarrassed to have that name! I never again felt badly about that, because you see, if it wasn't for Sergeant DeWitt, I would never have been born. I carry that name with pride and with the knowledge that I bear the name of one of the bravest and selfless men my father had ever known.

I will tell you something else. When I first became a Christian, I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was a Christian, but then I realized that I bear the name of Christ. If it wasn't for the selfless act of one man, I would never have the opportunity to be Born...Again! I think that if people knew the sacrifice that Jesus made for them...the Cost...they too would never, ever be ashamed of the Gospel. How can you be ashamed of bearing the name of the person who saved your soul? I know I am not...I will not....I can not be ashamed. I am Proud!

John 15:12-14

12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

Blessings All!

--El