What's in a Name?* (Lots, Apparently)

*This post was originally published as part of the Prayers for Girls initiative. To read more or subscribe to the site, click here!

 

But now, O Israel, The LORD who created you says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

— Isaiah 43:1 (NLT)

For the longest time I disliked my name. (Ack -- Sorry, Mom!) I don’t know why, but I could never fully embrace it. When I was growing up, it seemed like all the popular girls were named Laurie, Lisa, Julie or Jessica. I always gave my dolls those kinds of names. The ones the pretty girls had. Never, Megan. That was boring. That was just…me. And my middle name?? Plain Jane. Forget it. Double whammy.

It wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I began to respect and even like my name.

Although sometimes, when my friends and I go to Starbucks we dare each other to use a different name. We try to stifle a mischievous giggle when the barista pulls out a sharpie and asks for our name. We respond with something like “Trixie” or “Babs.” I mean, honestly! It’s funny how such a little antic can get my heart pumping like I might have to ditch my mom clogs and run from the cops at any moment.

What’s in a name anyway? Why do I care so much?

Our names give context to our place in the world. They function as a base cornerstone of “who” we are. And the legacy of certain last names can either make us (think Kennedy) or break us (think Kardashian) simply by association.

Our names are the first thing we reveal when we introduce ourselves. We must state our names when asked to take an oath or sign a legal document. Do you remember what it felt like to have the announcer say your full name before handing you a high school or college diploma? Awesome! Having our mom shout it across the crowded schoolyard? Not so much.

In his book, Run with the Horses, Eugene Peterson says, “The personal name is the most important part of speech in our language…Naming focuses on the essential. The act of naming, an act that occurs early in everyone’s life has enormous significance.”

One of the most profound first rites of parenthood is the act of naming our child. We often go round and round trying to find “just the right name” and refrain from telling anyone before it’s “official” out of fear that a flinch or involuntary grimace might indicate someone else disagrees with our choice.

Our children receive the names we bestow on them (for better or for worse) and we receive the names bestowed on us (for better or for worse).

No matter how you feel about your given name, however, the fact of the matter is, your earthly name is just that. An earthly one. It may be common or confusing, melodic or melodramatic, but no matter what, it is temporary. The name we hold now will not always be the whole story.

Names are important to God.

Right from the beginning of time, we find that God names his beloved creation. He calls the light “day” and the darkness “night.” He called the space “sky” and the water “seas.” He generously bestowed the power of naming the rest of his creation to man, but He reserved the right to grant us, his children, our precious, eternal name, Himself.

This reality blew me sideways when I discovered it in the book of Revelation. Did you know Go will give us a brand new name?? And it will be His?! For reals.

Revelation 3:12 tells us of such a promise,

All who are victorious [through the blood of Christ] will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write my God’s name on them, and they will be citizens in the city of my God — the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And they will have my new name inscribed upon them.

What will our new names be? Will it be God's name?? I don’t think we have a clue! Perhaps the very fact that it is hidden from us denotes its priceless quality. And the best part is, what Satan does not know, he cannot destroy (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Regarding the whole idea of names, Eugene Peterson reminds us of the most important thing. He writes,

WHAT we are named is not as important as THAT we are named.

Yes, you are a mother (or a father - we have a few that read this blog), one who names, but you are also a child, one who has been named. Before time began, God held the idea of you in his mind. Your name was written on his heart and you are His. Both now and forever.

Let us hold fast to the promise of a new name! No need to compare yourself to the popular kids. You are, and have always been, the apple of his eye! (Zechariah 2:8, Psalm 7:18)

What are some of the names/labels the world has given you? Are they uplifting or demeaning?

What are the names God gives you?

If you're a Bible kind of person, read on to see who He says you are:

  • 1 John 1:9
  • Romans 8:37
  • John 8:36
  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Ephesians 5:8
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30
  • Romans 8:17

If you took time to look any of these up, you found names like: FORGIVEN, VICTORIOUS, CHILD of GOD, CHILD of LIGHT, PURE, HOLY, FREE, HEIRS.... #themthere'sfightingwords

And believe me, this is only the beginning! Your name is your identity. And your identity is a manifestation of who you are.  

Don't let the world or any of its minions take that away from you. 

Christina's Take:

This is just beautiful.  I'm so encouraged by this idea that I have been named by God. It means I have a special role in His Kingdom - that's something about which I can easily lose perspective. I think it's because in the world it's easy to hear news stories and feel like just another data point in another meaningless poll. Faith is an important way to realize we are uniquely called and loved by a savior whose intentions are FOR us.

So grateful for this reminder especially during this busy holiday season. 

Holly's Take:

I always cringe when I hear anything about names.  First, because I think I misnamed one of my kids. Second, because it's taken me a year and a half of marriage to settle on my last name.  Third, because once on the first night of a new Bible study, we had to share why we liked or dislike our names. I said I liked Holly, because it was not gruff like, "Spike," or too flowery, like "Victoria."  Sure enough, the next girl to go, said quietly, "My name is Victoria."  I could have DIED!!!!  I do love the name Victoria, by the way. But when I get past those three things, I love names. I love hearing the names of babies, puppies, stuffed animals . . . really anything.  I have to say, though, that the idea of getting a new name is heaven is confusing to me.  I read the verse in Revelation and a few commentaries and they all said something a little different and I think I am even more confused now. To really understand that verse, I feel like I would need a degree in theology. So, before I try to summarize what I think it says and then get it wrong, I'm sticking with, I know all things will be new in heaven. AMEN! 

PS -- EXTRA GOLD NUGGET! This is Megan again. If you've gotten this far, congratulations. You are a person of deep commitment. I couldn't help but hop back on here at the end and add ONE MORE THING. In my devotions this morning, I ran across a verse in 1 Peter 4 that tells us of our connection to the name that is ABOVE ALL NAMES. The only one that really matters...

"If you are ridiculed for the NAME of Christ, you are BLESSED [do you see that??], because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. None of you however, should suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a 'Christian,' he should NOT BE ASHAMED but should glorify God in having THAT NAME." 
--- I Peter 4:14-15

Carrying the name of Jesus doesn't entitle us to be a jerk. Come on, now. That's just nonsense. Carrying the name of Jesus may come with present suffering (for the sake of the gospel) but it also reaps the reward of His glory. Both in the now and the not yet. That is a name you can take to the bank!