Shakespeare asked the question first – I merely reiterated it on Facebook last week. “What’s in a name?” I asked my friends last week, “If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would you choose?” I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with my name. It’s too short, too plain, too “sit there and look dull.” Even the letters do nothing but stand straight up.
My mother preferred one syllable names; consequently, all of my children have multisyllable romantic names. I rebelled.
High school allowed me to dabble in name changing. In freshman French class, we could choose our own French name by which we would be “appelle”d all year. I chose Brigitte – foreign, lilting, as far from prosaic monosyllable Jill as possible.
A year later, our Spanish teacher chose names for us, and she tried to match our real names. “Jill” stopped her. I mean, how do you even pronounce that in Spanish? It comes out like “he” with a hint of “yuh” at the end. That is not a name – it’s the sound one makes when coughing up something unpleasant. So she christened me “Juana,” the feminine form of John, possibly the only name worse in terms of common, ugly, boring. Other girls got Katarina and Maria, and I got . . . Juana. Seriously. Not. Right.
In college, I made a fleeting attempt to change my name to JillMarie. It’s didn’t quite get off the ground.
Maybe my mother was rebelling against her Scandinavian upbringing. Did she deliberately choose a name her Swedish father could not pronounce? Rather than call me “Yill” and admit that he couldn’t extract the “J” sound from his tongue, he simply referred to me as “the girl” on the few occasions we met. How he pronounced the name of his daughter Joanne I’ll never know.
When I answered my own Facebook question, I decided I would prefer to be called Kate or Sarah. Kate I suppose, because of Katharine Hepburn – a woman who has always seemed what I’d liked to be – unflappable, honest, and beautiful in a way that dares anyone to deny it. “Sarah” sounds like a woman who’s looked life in the eye and come out gracious, smiling, and wise. I’d like to be a Kate or a Sarah.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare knew – there is something that matters. In ancient cultures and, indeed, in many cultures today, a name denotes the parents’ hopes, dreams, and plans for their child. What a parent called a child mattered immensely to that child’s future. Would I be a different person had my mother called me Kate or Sarah? I have no clue.
But I do know something that might be helpful to someone today. I know without a doubt what’s your heavenly parent calls you if you call him Father. He calls you:
- Uncondemned(Romans 8.1) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
- Free (Romans 8.2) And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
- Accepted(Romans (15.7) Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
- His Masterpiece (Ephesians 2.10) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
- His own possession (1 Peter 2.9) for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,a holy nation, God’s very own possession.
- His temple (1 Corinthians 6.19) Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?
- His child (John 1.12) But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
- His friend (John 15.15) Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
- Brand new ( 2 Corinthians 5.17) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
I can stick with being me if I can have those things.
What about you? I know you might be comfortable in your name, but if you could choose, what would you pick? Or does your name have a special meaning for you?