What’s in a name?
Our tiny bodies get a label as we make our way into this world. Culture, interests, religion, meanings, and more guide us in our choices for a name in our first attempt at identity.
In the summer of 1965 I entered this world with a smile as my mother tells it, so my middle name became Joy. Years later I searched the meaning of my first name Arlene and found it to mean “The Lovely Promise”. I don’t believe my mother knew the meaning as she named me yet it has spoken to my identity.
I always wanted to change my name growing up since I had never heard of the name Arlene before. I’m glad now I didn’t change it. The meaning has spoken to my heart over the years and I don’t think it was by accident…
The “Lovely Promise of Joy”
Working in the classroom one day a couple of years ago I experienced what a name could do.
I encountered the personal lives of two girls who were walking through some very troubled things in their teenage lives. In the midst of some heartbreaking conversations, I asked the girls if they knew the meanings of their names. And so began our search.
The girls came back to class the next day and were inspired by what their search had found. I saw a change in their attitudes as they started walking and acting out the meaning of their names, seemingly unintentionally…yet was it?
Weeks later I saw these two girls in the hallway at school surrounded by hundreds of bodies going in every direction. The one girl looked at me from a ways off and our eyes met for just a moment in the crowd of teenage bodies…it made it almost impossible to stay connected…but in that moment I heard her distinct voice pierce through the noise of the crowd as she pointed directly at me..
Some students turned to see who was was getting all the attention. In that moment our eyes met but for a moment but long enough that the crowd and all its bustling around me disappeared. I saw those girls bouncing and waving as they pointed and looked directly at me.
The connection was made. These girls went from marking their arms and depression to graduating and finding upstanding jobs and purpose.
I’m not saying finding the meanings of their names was everything, but I do know I saw a change in their lives.
Christmas cards were passed out to celebrate the season months later. One card stood out in the pack I had collected in my hand. As I opened it a beautiful country cabin on a lake filled with beautiful snow met my eyes and at the bottom where the words…
“Merry Christmas to the Lovely Promise!!”
It was from these two girls.
My heart melted. Our connection with finding the meanings of our names had taken us on a journey through that year that held a relationship that continues to this day. I was even invited to their graduation… what an honor.
This was a small piece of my experience with the meaning of a name. If the possibilities of having such a life changing experience can be had with just a name given by your family, how much more incredible could our life be if we run to the names God gives us…
Citizen of Heaven
Loved of God
Friend of Jesus
Just to names a few.
Take any one of these names and you could watch your world, your life, change.
Take them all… and own them as your identity..
The God of the universe calls you..
He calls you by name…