For my birthday last year, my wife gave me a custom-made T-shirt. Some special words march across its front: “I am a piece of work.”

I’m not sure where she got this line, but she never says it in a derogatory way. Instead, she applies it to me whenever I can’t do something she thought I could. Like many wives, her high expectations don’t always match her husband’s abilities.

I am fairly handy around the house; I can do a little carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. The problem comes because my loving wife believes I can do it all. “After you finish painting the bedroom, why don’t you put a new foundation under our house?” “After you rotate the tires, will you put in a new transmission?” Sometimes, she volunteers me to help other people. I am honored by her confidence, but I usually know where to draw the line.

The other day, my niece brought over her car so I could help replace a thermostat. Now, I have replaced many of these in my lifetime. The procedure is simple: remove two bolts, pull out the old thermostat, install the new one and replace the bolts. But when I opened the hood of my niece’s car, the engine looked different than anything I’ve ever seen. First of all, the thermostat was not secured by two bolts, but by three odd-looking screws. These screw heads contained no screwdriver slots. In fact, they looked as though someone had reamed out the inside of each one. If you could shrink the Pentagon down to the size of an “M&M,” it would fit perfectly inside one of these strange screws.

The other problem was that the thermostat wasn’t located on top of the engine, but somewhere between there and China. Since I didn’t have the proper tool to remove those weird screws (I later learned the proper name, “torque bolts”), I made a trip to the parts store. The salesman asked me what size I needed. I explained I had to remove three bolts that looked like the Pentagon shrunk down to the size of an “M & M”. For some reason, the parts store people didn’t speak my language. They didn’t want to know about “M&M”s; they wanted to know what millimeter bolt I meant.

Since I was born before the 1970s, I know nothing about metric measurements. My generation got rid of the metric system at the same time we threw the tea into the Boston Harbor. As far as I’m concerned, millimeters, kilograms and kilometers ought to be taught under the heading, “Foreign Languages.”

The parts store salesman told me if I knew the millimeter size of the bolt, I could buy a single torque driver for about $4. Since I didn’t know that measurement, I would have to buy a $55 kit that contained every size torque wrench known to mankind. Apparently that’s their standard penalty for those of us who are metric-ignorant.

I returned from the parts store and told the ladies-in-waiting I wouldn’t be able to fix the thermostat. That’s when I heard it: “You are a piece of work.”

I’m glad my wife sees me as a person who can do great things. When she does this, she’s acting like God. Throughout history, He changed people’s names to reflect His expectations. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Simon became Peter, and the list goes on.

But Jesus changed more than names; he changed people’s character, too. He took someone like Simon Barjona and told him, “I don’t see you as having the qualities of a Simon. I see you more like a rock.” Jesus renamed him to recast his identity.

I have discovered over my years of ministry that I can do what Jesus did. I once took a young boy named Michael overseas. He jumped every time I said his name. I realized he associated that name with an “I can’t do anything right” mentality. Soon, I bought him a bracelet inscribed “Michael Paul.” I sat him down and told him, “From now on I will call you ‘Michael Paul’ because I see in you more of Paul’s characteristics than Michael’s.” I then explained what I meant.

Do you know what happened? I’ve never seen a student make such a turnaround! He began to walk with confidence. He found a boldness he had never known. And the next summer, Michael Paul returned as the team leader.

What you call a person sets up an expectation to fulfill. Give your children names they can grow into. If the name you choose calls forth positive character qualities, in the end they will become a piece of work . . . His.

Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)