A name is a wonderful thing. When we were choosing names for our daughters it was often an elimination process vs a choosing process.
Like depth charges dropping while looking for a sub underwater. There was a long list of NO’s before we landed on yeses. I chose Janette Marie (with approval from on high) because of a woman who was a foster mom to my own mother in her teenage years. She was a gentle soul and provided my mother with a family experience somewhat healthier than her own. I spelled it differently, wanting it to be simpler than the traditional “Jeannette”, hoping it would eliminate nicknames in school. I didn’t count on college where shortening it to Jette would be cool. Her husband and his family know her primarily by that name. Her dad called her Netty and most of the extended family adopted it. Even Elya who only lived with us a couple of years, uses Netty and has from the age of 4 (and she’s 22 now). Any of those names suits her and she answers to them all.
With Carolyn Rose I was due in June when the roses bloom in Portland OR. Where Bruce is from, where we dated, fell in love and married. Popular at that time and unknown to me were “K” names; Kenzie, Kelsey, Kaitlyn, Caitlyn, Katelyn…When she started kindergarten there were 15 girls in the class, 10 of them had “K” names. I thought we were so original. Within the family she was known as Carolynnie, cute but not so peer friendly. Again, I underestimated the power of college nicknames and she became Lyn during her years at Northpark and to this day. Once again, her husband and his family know her primarily by that name. Fortunately neither daughter ever complained that we didn’t join the college nickname bandwagon.
My own name is an inherited one. My mother lost her mother as an infant and her name was Cinda. She determined that her first daughter would be named after the mother she never knew. My name carried all the hopes and dreams residing in my mother about her imagined one. My middle name Suzanne, was a form of her own name, Susan. I had a step-grandmother who came from a large Portuguese clan in Hayward CA. They had a habit of adding a “y” to the end of all feminine names and titles. Cindy, Debby, Suzy, Kristy, Aunty…so within that company I was Cindy. My mother had an aunt in Arkansas who raised her from infancy to 7 yrs of age. Aunt Hazel was a good southern woman who didn’t know how to use a name without adding “Honey” to it, so in that world I was Cindy Honey. I answered, it was spoken lovingly, why wouldn’t I? I have to correct almost every other stranger, doctor’s office and so on, to use my proper name. I laugh at the people who stumble over the pronunciation. I offer up, “It’s like Linda with a C” and still they stumble. The only time I’ve ever come across my name in literature was when reading the Southern author Billie Letts, “her slutty cousin Cinda…” Never was I more thankful for my California roots.
Names are powerful things. Scripture is filled with God calling people by name. Abraham and Samuel, Jesus’ calling his disciples. God even changes people’s names when it suits him, Jesus too. Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. Names had meanings, they encapsulated a person’s entire being. They held deeper significance than a simple identification tool. Names held the very essence of a person. Jewish tradition includes naming ceremonies. Names are chosen with care and thought for that person’s future, hopefully their ability to embody that name for life.
In John 10 Jesus illustrates what it means to be called by name with a parable about the Good Shepherd;
vs 3 “…and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out.”
I had an experience in church during our weekly prayer service and it left an indelible impression on me about the power of a name. As we enter our service we receive prayer cards with personal requests. During the service we pray over them as God leads. On this night the request on my card was for a young man, living on the streets involved in drugs, his whereabouts unknown by his family. As I began to pray for this young man I felt a clear directive to pray that God would “call him by name”. It was accompanied by tears-I was deeply moved with compassion for him. As I shared with Bruce, we were in awe at God’s ability to know exactly how to reach those deeply lost…
He calls them by name
I have to take a minute. I remember when he called me by name as a little girl. Terrified, lonely and scared. He called and I’ve never been the same. It was powerful and intimate but most of all…
Ignoring that tender yet commanding voice, the voice that knows you inside out and loves you anyway, the voice that sacrificed himself for you, the voice that speaks your name…
So, I pray for lost sheep who’ve wandered from the Shepherd’s protective, nurturing care…
Father, call them by name
I pray for the ones who jump the fence loving pseudo freedom and independence above following the Shepherd…
Father, call them by name
And I pray for the ones who ignore the Shepherd’s voice, stubborn trouble makers who stir up noisy confusion in the flock…
Father, call them by name
I know that He will