What’s In a Name?

This morning I encountered a birth announcement that spurred my thinking. From the Andalusia Star News:

“Summer and Steven Steele of Andalusia announce the birth of their daughter, Krimson Tyde Steele. She weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces and was 20 inches long when she made her appearance at Andalusia Regional Hospital. Her maternal grandparents are Kimberly Musgrove and Randy Ainsworth. Her paternal grandparents are Ellie Mae Steele and the late David Randy Steele.”

First of all, congratulations to Summer and Steven. I don’t know them, but I’ve had a daughter so I know some of the joy they experienced.

Secondly, I am not criticizing this young couple for naming their child in honor of the Alabama Crimson Tide … and they get extra points for the creative spelling. Having a brother-in-law who is an Auburn grad and a daughter who lives in Birmingham, I am well aware of the intensity of the rivalry between the Tide and the Tigers and the passion with which graduates and fans embrace their teams. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but have you seen the size of the team decals they put on the cars and trucks in the state of Alabama? If I were the president of Auburn University right now, I’d already be filling out the paperwork on a full scholarship for little Krimson Tyde. Wouldn’t that be a family dilemma?

What got me thinking this morning was the significance of a name. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” The verse intends a meaning beyond the simple given name of a person; it also refers to his or her character, in other words, what one makes of the name he or she is given. Names can, however, be significant, and should be chosen with wisdom and not just wit.

Nancy and I made the decision that our children would have family names. Our daughter Jackie is named after Nancy’s father, Jack London. Our son Jay is named after my father James Arvestus Long (and, yes, the middle name is spelled correctly). Those names hold special significance for they tie the present to the past. It is even more powerful because both our fathers have gone home to The Lord.

You might argue that giving a child the middle name Arvestus might open him up to a few laughs. I am aware of that, since it is also my middle name … and I lived through it! The strangeness of the name is overridden (in my opinion) by the heritage tied to that name. My dad was called Arvestus. He may have gotten a strange look or chuckle from time to time, but he made something of his name that still fills my heart with pride and my eyes with tears. That name for me is a badge of honor, and I hope that I have such a legacy that my son feels the same way about it.

Now, don’t think I’m coming down on Summer and Steven for their choice of baby names. My wife and I graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. One of the names we had in reserve for a second girl was Caroline. I’m not sure we could have figured out a creative spelling that would have worked with Tar Heels anyway.

At one time Bible names were predominant. Parents would pluck the name of a child from the pages of Scripture. Even today, many parents give their children names with biblical ties – David, Ruth, Matthew, James, Mary, etc. I can still remember reading the name James in the Bible and it having special significance for that was my name! I Very few go to the extreme to grab names like Zerrubbabel or some of the less savory names like Ahab or Jezebel – probably good names to avoid for obvious reasons.

When naming a child, parents need to choose wisely because that child will have to live with that name all his or her life. Creativity is fine, but there will be bullies on playgrounds ready to use whatever manner of weapon they can forge from that name. Krimson Tyde may work pretty well in Alabama, but what about when that child as an adult sits in a job interview in front of an Auburn grad? Not saying the Auburn person wouldn’t be fair and equitable, but after a loss in the Iron Bowl things could get tricky!

Parents need to be wise in choosing a name, and all of us need to be wise in what we make our names. I told a group of young men in a book study to think hard about what they would want said of them at their funeral. Not many of us like to dwell on death, but the fact is that we write our eulogy every day we live. I had one adult son tell me as we prepared his father’s funeral, “I can’t think of one good thing to say about my father.” How tragic, awful, and heart-rending that was for the family … and it wasn’t really easy for the one preaching the funeral, either.

When people remember your name, what will they remember about you? Will it fill their hearts with pride and joy or fill their minds with memories best forgotten?

Before I sign off, there’s one more thing about a name that is significant. We find many times God giving a new name to people. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Simon was renamed Peter. Saul’s new name was Paul. And perhaps my favorite, Joseph became Barnabas. Each new name had a new meaning. It signified a change of life, a new beginning.

No matter what you’ve made of your name so far, you can have a new start. By placing your faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, the Bible says we are born again. It does not mean all that we have done in the past is erased, but our sins are erased and with it the guilt we bore. We are new creations in Christ – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is an indication in Scripture that we to will receive a new name. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” A new name for a new person. It happens everyday in the physical world. It can also happen in the spiritual world. I have a new name in Jesus because I am a new person in Jesus.

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, I think.

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