Day 32


When do we lose it? The childhood urge within to clamber up the nearest tree and drink in all that lovely life-breathing green, feeling the intoxicating exhilaration of being off the ground, alive in our senses and closer, higher, nearer to Heaven somehow. When do we lose this life-embracing child’s heart? The joyful, joy-filled, unselfconscious giggling glee of an all-in, wholehearted existence? The perspective of being small in our own eyes and large in our own beating heart, fully alive and present in our own skin? Free not to hide, pretend or shield ourselves from the world, but to live in it open and vulnerable and whole hearted?

Free to climb higher and draw closer. Nearer to heaven somehow.


All I know is that it goes. Somewhere. This freedom. It starts corroding the day the corrosive looks and words of others register dissatisfaction on a heart.

We say ‘sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you’,  but nothing could be further from the truth. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our hearts. Slowly. Eroding our God-breathed-Imago Dei with the slow drip of rejection and the corrosive power of false narratives labelling us less; names short on grace, names short on hope, names that fall short of the name God breathed into us from the genesis of our existence. Human: Imago Dei. 

Our greatest failing, we humans is that we are constantly forgetting our name. We forget who we are. We forget each other’s names, and instead use labels and categories, assuming that our bumper sticker definitions of one another are all there is to see, all there is to know. We classify each other as ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘loser’ and ‘liar’, ‘beggar’ and ‘enemy’, using corroding words and summative categories so we don’t have to engage with the phenomenal mystery and depth enfolded within every human heart. 

And every human heart wilts and withers under the boulder weight of these labels naming us less. Our all-in, wholehearted existence cut-flower shrivels as we shield ourselves from the world. This world labelling us less. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names break our hearts.

Tax collector. It was a label. It sounds like a descriptor, like a job title. But actually it had also become a label ladling out frustration and hate. A label soaked in a history of oppression and lifetime of disdain. Tax collectors were the frontline of oppression for the occupying forces of Rome. They took money from local people who struggled to make ends meet, and justice and truth frequently ‘fell off the scales’ when they balanced their books. After all, If they were going to be labeled as ‘the bad guys’, they may as well profit from the label. So they did, and they were hated for it. Understandably. 

‘Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.’ Luke 19:1-2


Zacchaeus, that was his name, but as a tax collector his name was dirt. Mud. Filth beneath the feet of every self respecting Jew, ‘a thieving traitor’, at least that’s how they saw him, blamed him, renamed him… his community smarting-red with the burn of his betrayal.

And he wasn’t just a tax collector. He was the chief tax collector. He wasn’t just a thieving traitor, he was the chief of all the thieving traitors. Usually the wealthy were respected and honoured in a community, not least because others hoped to gain from association with them. Not Zacchaeus. Mud.

Zacchaeus, his name literally meant ‘pure’, but he wasn’t. He’d fallen far short of the meaning of his name. He was short in stature and short on friends, because he had sold himself short by short-changing others. Zacchaeus had aligned himself with the occupying forces and lined his pockets with takings taken from fellow Jews. Pure? Purely detestable. That’s the name Zacchaeus bore. Dirt.

This was the name Zacchaeus lived. This was the way his community viewed him. This was simply how things were. Was there another way to be? 

‘Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through…’ Luke 19:1