Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's in a name?

Michael and I just adopted a new kitten and while the name that she was given was okay (Phoenix), we wanted to name her for ourselves.  The naming process can become fairly involved as we  both threw out all kinds of names.  We wanted something that fit her personality and looks (she's a calico), something that was easy to use when we had to yell: "no, kitty, get down from there" and a name that we both liked.  While we tried out all kinds of names (Conundrum, Delilah 2, Mixie,etc.), we think we have finally setting on Kaboodle (as in she's the whole kit n' caboodle). 

What about your name or that of your kids?  How was your name determined?  Was it a family name?  A unique name?  A popular name?  A name that reminded you of someone else?  Or did it just somehow sound right as it issued forth from your lips or that of your parents?

My parents just liked the name "Jennifer" (and this was just before it became popular) and my middle name is the same as my mother's ("Elaine").  And interestingly enough, if I was a boy my name would have been "Michael".  And then, our last names often will make those connections to our families.  For instance, my last name at birth was Manske which connected me to my birth father and family; it was then changed to Dyer when my mom married my 2nd dad, identifying us as a new family; and then changed again when Michael and I got married, lifting up the family that we are together.

Names are very important in scripture as well.  To name something was to claim the person or place.  Names often had significant meanings like Isaac which is the "laughter" that Sarah brought forth when she was told that she would bear a child even though she was barren and old.  His son Jacob's name got changed to Israel signifying the one who strove with God.  In the New Testament, Saul's name was changed to Paul as a sign of the ways in which his life was turned around.

What is in a name?

The most significant naming in the Bible is that of God.  When Moses first encounters God in the burning bush, he asks what should he tell the Israelites when they ask your name?  God answers enigmatically, "I AM WHO I AM...tell them I AM has sent me to you."  It is where we get the Hebrew Yahweh (YHWH).  In this peculiar naming, we are told more about who God is rather than just his name.  God is (period).  In John's Gospel, Jesus fleshes his being out more as he says that he is the "bread of life", "the resurrection and the life", "the Good Shepherd", among others.  God is (period).

We  are called to not take God's name in vain in the Ten Commandments.  When we use the name of God we are, in a sense, laying claim to God.  To misuse God's name is to misuse our relationship with God.  We can never own God, but God offers himself through Jesus to claim his relationship with us.  God IS the one in whom we live and move and have our being.  We are because God IS.

In naming ourselves, we not only identify with family, we are named and claimed as children of God.  It places us in relationship not just with God, but with all of God's children.  This name says something about whose we are and who we are.  It gives us not only identity but lifts up the characteristics and ways in which we are to look at one another and at the world.  As children of the One who IS, our very being (body and soul) echoes God's being.  And the One who is I AM names us "beloved".

How does that name strike you?

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