“What’s in a name?” This is arguably one of the most recognizable lines in Shakespeare’s writings. Yet I find myself disagreeing greatly with the sentiment behind it. In this dialog, Shakespeare’s Juliet is debating the importance of a name on a person’s identity. She argues that a name is not a defining point in who a person really is. While there is truth to this, something contrary to this idea has been on my mind a great deal lately. And that is the absolute importance and beauty of a name and what that means to us as people and as children of God.
I remember when I was a little girl my mom had a book of names from when she and my dad were naming myself and my siblings. I would spend hours flipping through that book and finding out what all of my friends names meant. I love the idea of having a name! And even more so, of the why behind the name. When someone I know has a baby and they spend days, weeks, and months choosing the perfect name for that child, I am always eager to know why they chose it. Is it a family name? Is it because it has a significant meaning? That has always fascinated me!
I recently met with a family in order to conduct their first post adoption report after bringing their precious daughter home from China. Karis was 2½ years old when she was adopted into her forever family. I was amazed to hear her mom and dad tell me stories of how Karis has truly embraced her new name! She is old enough to know that it is, indeed, a new name… and to know that it is identified with her new life here with her new family. Her attachment to her name is such that she does not accept any kind of nickname. Karis’ older brother and sister, the biological children of their parents, love being called by a nickname, but not Karis. Her parents told me of how she will correct them if they call her anything other than “Karis”. Similarly, if someone tells her she is silly, she will reply, “No, I’m Karis”. This precious little girl knows that her life here is new… and a part of that is the new name that she has been given. She loves that name and desires to be called nothing but the name associated with the new life that she has.
I can’t help but think of the Old Testament scripture where God commands us not to fear and reminds us that He has called us by name: “But thus says the Lord, the one who created and formed you: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1). Like Karis, we too have been brought from our old identity into a new, forever family. We have been rescued from an ugly past- one with no hope and no future, and redeemed as God’s beloved children. And as a part of that, we have a new identity. We have been called by name. May we treasure that identity: child, loved, chosen, redeemed. These are only a few of the names by which we have been called by our Creator, Savior, and Abba Father.
Mallory BlackmonInternational Social Worker