The Traveling Companion: episode 4
I really like my boys’ names. I know, I better, right? But really, I do. Each of their names are significant and meaningful. All of our boys carry the Wells family name, which of course I was proud to pass on to them, but that isn’t the extent of it.
Conner is Rachel’s mother’s maiden name. With the recent passing of MeeMaw and PeePaw – people who were not only formative in the lives of Rachel and her family, but also in my own life and that of our boys – I am so proud that my oldest son will carry their mark in a special way for the rest of his life. His middle name, Allan, is my middle name as well. Its strange, I didn’t like that name as a kid, but now I feel much differently about it.
Micah was a great prophet and I have always loved the passage in Micah 6:8
“ He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
This was made all the more important to us when we learned that it was PeePaw’s favorite verse as well. Micah’s middle name, Eason, is my mother’s maiden name. I think its pretty cool that our boys have imbedded in their identity a reminder that all families are examples of God’s reconciling work of uniting people who were previously strangers.
Josiah was a good king…I hope that our little assassin will also use his powers for good! In Israel’s history there are very kings that come across well in Scripture and Josiah was one of them. I hope that my son, a child of the king, will follow in the footsteps of his namesake (except for the ill-advised battle against the Egyptian army…). His middle name, Christopher, is also my little brother’s middle name – a name which I had the honor of choosing for Adam too. (Actually I think it was more my stubborn insistence and a mother’s relenting, but that’s another story!)
Naming has always carried great significance – both relationally and often prophetically. Today in class we watched a movie – The Secret Life of Bees – and there is a powerful scene where a community bestows a new name on a young lady who has experienced a long and difficult journey toward healing and redemption. The naming not only signifies new life and a new chapter in her story, but it also communicates her acceptance into the community…into the family.
Look at the number of times in Scripture that God gives someone a new name – Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul just to name some of the big ones. In each case this is about more than just a new driver’s license. Rachel took my name when we were married, signifying that no longer did we represent two separate clans, but were now one family. This name she accepted as her own was one that was offered to me when my own Dad adopted me into his family. None of these situations were insignificant.
The giving or changing of a name is a change of life. It is new life. And that is part of what makes community so powerful. Even if we don’t legally change someone’s name, a commitment to devoted community bestows new identity. When we choose to throw in our lot with a people something significant occurs. In our society it is all too common to devalue this incredibly sacred decision. Abba Antony said, “Wherever you find yourself, do not easily leave there.” I believe that it is time for us to reclaim the value of stability and choosing to remain connected to a community, to embrace and live into our name.
As a society we are lonely and scurry around busily searching for meaning and significance. If we will slow down and invest in the people around us we may find that God has been waiting to use those broken and flawed people to teach us precisely what we’ve been searching for.