I was one of those kids who read everything and anything she could get her hands on. You know the types — the ones you find sitting and reading the encyclopedia (I had an awesome kid’s encyclopedia that I still credit with my knowledge of many weird facts), the dictionary (I wasn’t one of those kids), or the telephone directory.
My book of choice was the Baby Name Book.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I became obsessed with names, but for as long as I can remember, I have loved them. I love the meanings. I love the foreign sounds, and the ones you can find derivatives of in every language. Maybe as a writer I was just looking for the one name, the perfect name, the name that fits the characters I was always talking to in my brain. I knew that every person, every soul, deserves a name that fits them. That says, “Here I am, this is me, you can’t deny it.”
Half the time, I was really looking for my name. And don’t get me wrong — I love my name, and I did then. What I really liked about it was that I knew very few people with my name, so it actually felt like my own. I didn’t have to share it very often; it was mine.
But it didn’t have a meaning. Autumn is Latin for… Autumn. And this was an issue. Because all of these beautiful names had incredible meanings. There was this underlying truth about names that are almost like this well kept secret, and only those who searched it out and cared enough to know knew the meaning behind the names, and somehow knew something special about the people who carried them. I have no idea where this conviction came from in my young heart, but I knew it was true, and I was determined to find the name that meant me.
Some of the names that I latched on to in my youth (and you have to promise right now not to laugh) were: Jade Fardreamer (this was my penpal name with a friend whose real name I won’t divulge, but her pen name was Lizzie Blaze); Layla (which means “night” or “dark beauty”, and I thought that was incredibly romantic); Nicole (meaning “victory”); Rayne (a character I based on myself early in my childhood but who was my stark opposite, and freakishly enough as my friend Abby recently pointed out, I have taken after in almost ever aspect); and Danielle (which means, “God is my judge” but I was more interested in the name because Daniel — lion’s den Daniel — always intrigued me). I tried on names like other girls tried on dresses, trying to find the one that fit and completed me. I even made up names: Lueia and Aerilyn and Zip and a host of others, but none of the names seemed to fit my heart exactly. It was still out there somewhere.
As I got older, I never lost my love of names, though a part of me always thought it was a little childish to continue my search for the one, perfect name. This desire in my heart to find the name for myself had to be a silly one; there could be no magical name to fit me that would answer all the questions I had about myself. But my heart wouldn’t let me give up on the quest just yet.
I have names for all my friends. My girlfriends more commonly go by their nicknames in my head than their real names. Pippin, Sparrow, Kayva, Zakiah — names that I have named them, that they answer to, that have meaning between us. I cannot think of their names without remembering the reasons they are named that, what makes them important to me; the people that they are has become incredibly tied up in the names I have chosen for them, and the names they have chosen for themselves.
This belief that names were powerful was impressed upon me the more and more that I read. Treebeard refuses to tell little Merry and Pippin in Lord of the Rings his true name as it is too long and “growing all the time”. Eragon’s true name helps him defeat the evil king Galbatorix. Aslan gives his name to the young boy in the Horse and his Boy as “Myself.. Myself… Myself”.
The choice of name tends to affect the development of the character, even the plot. This may be so in real life also. — Margaret Drabble
Names have power. It is a truth that has endured throughout the ages. Not the names that we are born with (though those are important and have their own kind of power), but the names that we earn throughout our lives. The names that we come to be known by. The Egyptians believed we all had “true names”; the name that described all the parts of us. Anyone who knew your true name held power over you to control you. Those who knew their own name knew the truth about their innermost being.
This is not a foreign concept from Christianity. The Israelites had a hundred names for God, and his true name was believed to be such a powerful secret that only the High Priest was entrusted with it. The first job given to man at the beginning of Creation was the naming of all living things! Adam names Eve “life” because she would be the mother of all; her name defined her. Men who came through trials with God were given new names: Abram becomes Abraham; Jacob becomes Israel; Saul becomes Paul; Sarah becomes Sarai; Gideon becomes known as Jerubaal. Some changed their names as circumstances in their life changed who they were, as Naomi who once had been pleasant asked everyone to call her Mara, or bitter; Hadassah takes on the mantle of Esther to hide and save her people. Jesus gave names to his disciples — he calls James and John the Sons of Thunder for their quick anger, and he calls Peter a stone. Himself he names over and over again, each name a different part of his personality, his mission, his purpose: The Way, the Truth, and the Life; Living Water and the Bread of Life; Emmanuel; The Word; The Good Shepherd; The Resurrection; Master and Lord; The True Vine; The Overcomer; the Morning Star. Hundreds more.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. — Revelation 2:17
The first time I read this, it was like a light bulb going off in my head; an epiphany so bright it was almost blinding. It is so strange, so mythical sounding, that it almost makes us think this is mere symbolism. But this concept speaks to our deep hearts so clearly that it must be true; there is a name that is us, and Christ knows it, and one day he will share it with us.
But one might ask, Why? What’s the purpose of this name? Why would he give us this name unless it was incredibly important? What is wrong with the name that we have?
Well, I don’t know. What is wrong with the names we own? Tell me; do you ever long to be recognized for who you really are? The person, the soul, that is you, without masks or having to hide the truth about everything you love, what impassions you, the desires that shape you, the events that have made you into all that you are. Does your name say that when you introduce yourself?
God calls us by many names; he has many names for me. Some I have found in his Word through study; and some through his Voice in my walk and friendship with him. By telling us these names, he helps us to discover the person that he created us to be, not necessarily the person the world has made us into. Our names call us back to the souls he formed and shaped and molded and labored over. Names like redeemed and rescued, beloved, a chosen generation, children of light, new creations, brethren, partakers, glory and joy, vessels of gold and silver, peculiar people, royal priests, soldiers, pilgrims, fellowhelpers. These are names we all can claim.
Some of these names are for us to share so that others can know who we are; who God has made us to be. Others… like the stone we receive in Revelations, some are meant to be a secret. Remember that these names have power; and I don’t mean in a magical or superstitious sense. I mean in the sense that they are truth, God’s revelation to us that changes our perceptions about ourselves. Things so dear that are meant for only the intimacy we share in his bosom. There is nothing wrong with keeping secrets; we are made of secrets as much as we are made of flesh and bone, and the secrets we keep with God are so precious and holy, they are sacred.
I understand now that the deep desire I owned as a child to find the name that is me is proof of this truth. The eternity, the world, the truth that God has set in my heart, like he speaks of in Ecclesiastes, will not let me forget that I am not all that I am yet, and I am changing, and will change. And he will keep on revealing to me the glorious creature that he is turning me into by his power by giving me these names to help me understand.
And there are names that he has given me that I am still struggling to understand. He calls me Letter Writer, Candle Lighter, Bosom Friend, Harvester (see how this is like the name my own parents gave me?), Sword Carrier, Crier, and Reason for Joy. I don’t share these names with you out of pride; it is with difficulty that I struggle to hide them. We often fear our glory because we don’t understand what it means. Satan will certainly attempt to overshadow our beauty, but Christ is doing all he can to reveal it. I share them so that people will know what Jesus sees me as; this is the purpose of a name! To identify!
Finding these names is a crucial part of our relationship with Christ. There are names that reveal who we are in life, and names to merely get you throught the day. They are truths to fall back on when we forget who and what we are to him. They teach us about the people he wants us to be. They develop our friendship. To ask for these names is only a natural part of our walk, and living by and out of them will release a power to work more effectively and joyously for him. I speak from experience; knowing your name is so empowering and precious. To be named of God is humbling and uplifting and incredible, all at once. The verse above in the picture tells us that Jesus is above and knows every name that is named, and it is part of a prayer that Christ will reveal all these things to us. He wants to reveal these names; it is his own desire towards us.
So ask him.
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