I didn't realize at first that my name was different. For the first several years of school, I was known as "Laurel," and, except for these twin boys in second grade who teasingly called me "Laurel and Hardy," I never thought anything about it. I was probably in 5th grade or so when I realized I was the only "Laurel" I knew. It suddenly mattered. I didn't want to be different.
Different seemed like the worst thing in the world.
Everybody at home called me Laurie. Laurie I could handle. I knew some other Lauries and, of course, there was Laurie Partridge. So thus began my struggle to become "Laurie" instead of "Laurel." Teachers mostly wanted to call me Laurel since that's what was written on their attendance sheet. Many of my classmates had known me since Kindergarten as Laurel, and, you know, old habits die hard. It was easier in Jr. High because we merged with another school, so there were scads of kids who would know me from the start as Laurie.
For a brief period I changed the spelling to "Lori" because I thought that looked cooler. I even sometimes signed my name "Lori the Great," not because I thought it was true, but maybe because I wanted it to be. I think by the time 8th grade came around, I was back to Laurie. But, still, it was Laurie, not Laurel . . . an outer manifestation of what was going on in my heart. I didn't want to be different in any way.
The other day I was conversing with a sweet 9-year-old girl as we baked cookies together. She is a well-read, well-spoken, and quite a poised 9-year-old girl, I must say. We talked about being different. She feels different in her interests; and her classmates, in her perception, see her as different. She doesn't enjoy the resentment she sometimes senses from others over her different-ness, but, wow, she is determined to embrace those differences and not cave in to the temptation to conform to others' view of "cool." She quoted from books the inspiring words she has read and memorized about what one can accomplish when she is okay with being different.
I wish I hadn't wasted my time at her age.
Naturally, I'm not talking about the kind of "different" that rages at God and the world and seeks to rebel against what is true and right. No, no, no. That kind of different is not to be succumbed to. The good kind of different is that of unique, God-given qualities that have a purpose--through which He can do His work. A person who can embrace his/her individuality can deeply touch and affect the lives of those who aren't afraid to interact with different people.
Think of all the potential that is wasted when people care only about conforming in order to avoid ridicule.
Being Laurie became a habit. From high school to college to my locations after marriage, I've just been Laurie. It's automatic. I almost forget I have a "real" name sometimes. In recent years, I've contemplated going back to it, but it's too complicated to ask people to change my name in their minds after all these years. If we were to ever relocate, I might consider starting off fresh with Laurel.
But a name isn't everything. On the inside I'm becoming a Laurel. I'm not so concerned about being cool or acting like everyone else. I don't go out of my way to offend people, but the Lord is the One I want to glorify, not myself or a certain group of people. It's okay now if people don't agree with me. It's okay to be different . . .
. . . to be Laurel.