What’s in a Name?

A name can either give us hope or leave us feeling hopeless.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

I was the last one into the classroom that day, strolling into Mr. Sonato’s fifth grade English class, head down, and determined that everyone should know that I felt as bad as I looked. As I walked by the teacher’s desk, making my way to that desk/chair combo with yesterday’s gum stuck underneath, I remember him saying, “Chin up Tom; it’s going to be a great day!” I also remember thinking about how very wrong he was. In my mind, I had nothing to be thankful for, no one to be grateful to, and no reason to smile; I was unloved-or, so I felt.

At school the day before, I had some interactions with my classmates at lunch that excited me with potential. The conversation started with me lamenting about my home life, specifically that my Mom remarried, and while my Step-Dad Rob gave her his last name, he left me feeling like a third wheel. While my last name used to be a source of pride, it became a constant reminder that I was unwanted, hence unloved. But, there in the lunchroom that day, my friends told me that Rob could adopt me and then I would have his last name as well. On the way home, I considered that either Rob didn’t know about this “adoption” thing, or he felt that I didn’t want his last name, so the excitement built as I walked up to our driveway, knowing that soon I would trade those excuses in for a new name!

Listening to my new Sha Na Na album while waiting for my Step-Dad to get home from work, I rehearsed my lines like a nervous actor auditioning for the role of their life. Over and over again, I went over that future conversation until I heard that back door open, and Rob walk down the hall to his office. There I stood, in the doorway of his home office, stomach in knots, mind racing, palms sweating, and without any introduction, I just blurted it all out. Something like, “Dad, you and Mom have the same last name. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I want you to adopt me so that I can have the same last name too. Can I have your last name?”. Bent over his suitcase, opened on the guest bed, he didn’t even look up; he just replied, “No. I don’t think that would be a good idea.” We went back and forth, me begging for his name and explaining what it would mean to me, and him refusing to budge with the conversation ending with his triumphant and stern, “I said no.” 

There was a group about 2,000 years ago also excited about a name; in fact, they stood at the edge of their city ready with shouts of acclamation as Jesus Christ entered through the gate. They shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38, ESV-emphasis mine). And, there were those in the crowd that asked the Father to rebuke them, to which Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40, ESV). Jesus was saying those folks had every reason to be excited about a name, especially considering what that name could do! Later, some of these very people would even take on that name, in pride, proclaiming themselves Christians. And, God Himself cemented their desires by adopting them as His children (Ephesians 1:5).

I did end up being adopted and receiving a new name; it was just from a different Father. In the book of Revelation, God says that He will give His children “a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17, ESV). This new name means that I no longer have to feel unwanted, unloved or awkward as not fitting in or belonging. That is why I wear this new name as a badge of love, a token of acceptance, a trophy of grace, and a display of what the power of love can do.

Scripture:  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Rev. 2:17 (NIV)

Question: Have you ever felt unloved, unwanted, or out of place? 

Prayer: Father, this world has a way of making me feel unworthy, and I certainly feel out of place, like I don’t belong. Please remind me today that you went through so much that I could have a home, know I am loved, and never feel unwanted again. Thank you for my new heart and my new name. May I be most focused on your Name and all that you have done for me. I love you, and thank you for loving me. In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray, amen.

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