Who remembers the writing assignment in elementary school where you had to ask your parents why they named you what they did, and what your name means? Or how many of you have spent hours on ancestry.com trying to find that great-great-great-great-grandparent that isn’t connected yet?
I spent a semester researching a portion of my maternal grandpa’s extended family after finding out they had been ordained Church of God ministers–and discovering this only after I had begun the process to be ordained in the Church of God, which I didn’t think I had any ties to at the time! I dug through old Church of God yearbooks, tracking their moves, and I read hundreds of articles from the Gospel Trumpet reading prayer requests from them, as well as full articles written by them describing their lives, their ministries, and the ways they were seeing God move. While I got to count it as a paper for a class in my seminary education, it was fascinating in its own right just to understand a little bit more of my heritage.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
So the well-known quote goes. So why do we fight so hard to find significance in our names? To find heritage in our family name and purpose in our given name? I know I’m not the only one who has spent countless hours googling the root, history, and meaning of my given name! My name means “ewe” by the way–a female sheep. I’ve read the story of Rachel and Jacob dozens of times. Yet I keep going back.
And I am finding more. These past few weeks, God has been speaking to me about what my name means–not just my name in general, but my name as it specifically relates to me, how he sees me, and who he created me to be. And it matters. Knowing how God sees me changes how I live. It changes what I care about and what I pursue.
We long for significance. We have a deep need to be given a name that means something. We make memes that say
“How cool is it that the same God, who created mountains, & oceans, & galaxies, looked at you & thought the world needed one of you too?”
and we wonder and we hope that it is true. Too often we compromise and settle for a name that already exists. We take on the name of our occupation, of our social group, of our status. But here is the awe-inspiring truth: God named you. He named you with a purpose. He named you from a place of deep intimacy, of having carefully crafted every part of who you are. Though he knows the number of hairs on your head, he does not think of you as a number, as just one more human among all the other humans. He is the God of unending creativity, and he created you to bring something only you can bring to this world, if you will let him be the one to name you. And here is the best part: he is dancing, giddy, excitedly waiting for the chance to tell you, to take you deeper into who he created you to be, and it is the journey of a lifetime.