What’s In A Name?

I stood in a corner of the back room at my bank, having been accompanied to our joint safety deposit box.  I held two papers in my hands.  Both of them single pages, thin and light.  Both of them carrying a weight of significance that called for an almost reverent reflection…

In one hand I held the paper that stated the name that was given to me when I came into this world: my birth certificate.  In the other I held the paper that was signed on my wedding day when I was given another name, 27 years later: our marriage license.  I had to stop and think about the privilege of being gifted with a name (twice!) that didn’t at first belong to me, but at specific points in time, through the makings of family, became the most recognizable marking of my identity.  My father’s name, now my maiden name, and my husband’s name, now my family name.

teary-eyed vows

Hearing Trey say his vows, my “name in transit”: a powerful moment.

Throughout this whole adoption process, I often think about what God did through Christ: “Now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham.  You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” (Galatians 3:29)…  “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children” (Ephesians 3:6).  I love the phrase in John 11:52 — “the scattered children of God” — and the depiction of God in Ephesians 3:15 — “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”  And I think, should our future child not otherwise have a chance to know the Lord, I can hardly wait another second to bring him or her into this family of God…  I think of all of the scattered children of God who wait to be brought home.

Russell Moore writes of his Russia-adopted son:  “If you’re in Christ, he’s given you a new name (Rev. 2:17), a name you’ve never heard and that wouldn’t make sense to you right now.  It would be like yelling ‘Timothy Moore’ in the halls of an orphanage when he was an infant.”

He writes about how God changed many names in the Bible in order to establish a new identity — Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Paul to Saul — the new identity through which God’s promises and plans would be fulfilled in them…

The day after I made copies of those significant papers this past weekend, to send off to our agency as part of our home study, I found myself literally walking through a multitude of stone-carved family names, names I’ve always known and loved, strolling through time both backward and forward it seemed.  Names cascaded across the white-topped lawn in careful succession, revealed one after the other in their plotted patterns of history.  Trey and I had taken a day trip to my hometown for my mom’s birthday, and she along with my sister and the two of us went to visit my (paternal) grandparents’ graves.  We stopped along the way to view other headstones of family members dating back to the 1800s, sharing and commenting on names, and my personal list rolled through my mind with every step… walking deeper into legacies we may have heard but that wouldn’t even make sense to us right now…


It’s somewhat ironic.  I’ve thought a lot about names lately, and I think now about the fact that, whatever we should choose (or receive) first and second for our future adopted child(ren), it’s our last name we are passing on as one of the first real and physical declarations that say: “You are one of us.”

I once sat with an amazing lady who was adopted when she was very young and is in her fifties now.  And though her history was not picture-perfect with her adoptive father — more due to life itself than anything to do with adoption — she was able to be at his side when he died.  Here was the man who had given her a family and a second chance at life, and yet the thing she was most grateful for — having been lost and abandoned all those years ago — was the fact that his adoption gave her his name.  The name that brought her into his family and gave her a place and a part in a new story.  She sat at his side before he passed away, and she said, “Thank you, Daddy… for giving me my name.”

To answer the title of this post, I guess you could say there are many things that comprise a name.  Maybe a couple different meanings, depending on the country of origin.  Possibly the recognition of a family member, a legacy, a tradition.  And sometimes, even as we’re looking back, it’s the representation of a new identity… a brand-new start in God’s great plans of redemption.



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