What’s in a name?
I’m kind of obsessed with names. If you’ve met me in person, the odds are that I have had some sort of conversation with you about your name. It’s because they are so darn important.
A name is the first gift you are given. Even if it is just “baby,” it’s a name and it means a lot. Having a name means that you are YOU, a special person, and there is no one else in the world like you.
Names are prophetic. Some people think that prophecy is foretelling the future, but it is really just what Jesus is saying (Revelation 19:10). He knows our hearts and He knows the future, so there can be some foretelling aspects to prophecy, but most of what Jesus is saying is how much He loves us and what He loves about us. When we’re doing something that hurts us or others, He speaks to call us out and to deal with that problem. That’s the kind of prophecy that gets the most attention from many people, but that’s not the kind of prophecy I’m talking about here.
Whether your parents knew it or not, they named you prophetically. Sometimes, your name is a puzzle to figure out. Sometimes the meaning is as clear as day.
Let’s start with my name, for example.
For my first name, my dad decided he liked the name of a TV show character (a la The Scarecrow and Mrs. King), and Amanda I became. My mom loved French names, so my middle name is fairly run-of-the-mill: Marie.
There are two ways you can start thinking about your name, and it doesn’t matter which order you do it in. First, you consider the meaning of your actual name.
Amanda is the Latin command form of “to love.” So, I imagine myself being placed somewhere and God talking about me—“Look at her! Such beauty and spunk. How can you not love her? Love her!”
Marie is a bit trickier. It comes from the Latin root that means “bitter.”
Love her—the bitter one? It is true that I have struggled with bitterness in my life, and I have found great comfort in the reality of my name, that God still loves me, the bitter one.
There are more layers to explore, though. A little research (on Wikipedia, master of collected knowledge) yields some interesting results. Marie is the French form of Mary, which in Hebrew is Miryam. It can mean ‘bitterness,’ but interestingly that word is related to myrrh, an aromatic resin from a thorny tree. It has antiseptic properties and has been used throughout history as a perfume and as incense.
Suddenly, this name becomes more active. “Love her, the one who is strong-smelling and bold, who offers herself as incense.”
(As I type this, I am learning so much for myself. This is connected to my point in a previous post about weakness!)
Another route, if the literal meaning of your name leaves much to be desired, is to look at people in history. You can claim another person as your namesake, even if that is not necessarily what your parents intended.
For example, I learned the other day about St. Amand. He’s the patron saint of beer, which is pretty nifty. Also, the name Marie is so full of history—Mary of Bethany, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Queen of Scots…you take one that interests you and learn about the life of this person. We all have faults, so taking someone as a namesake does not mean you will be just like them, but it is a root-deepening exercise to learn about those who came before you, bearing your name.
So, what about you? What does your name say about you?