I’ve written in earlier posts about the origin of my name, to which I usually get either, “Well, that’s unusual!” or, “What a beautiful name!” Sometimes, with a frown at my pale complexion, “Is that Hispanic?”
But a couple of weeks ago, I had quite a different response. An older gentleman of color often comes to our free Wednesday dinners. He is always friendly and polite and expresses his appreciation for the meal. That time, as we shook hands, he said, “Now what is your name again?” When I told him, he slapped his thigh, laughed, and said, “Girl, that’s a ‘hood name!”
So he may be right, though I hadn’t thought of it that way in years. In 1968, in the early years of school integration, the central office hired me to teach at Oakland School in Bloomington, Illinois, sight unseen by the principal or teachers. After I was comfortable with everyone and they knew me well, they told me that they had assumed, from my name, that I was African-American.
God obviously put great stock in the meanings of names. He changed the name of the father of the Hebrew nation from Abram, meaning “exalted father,” to Abraham, “father of a multitude.” We aren’t told why the apostle Saul’s name was changed to Paul, but evidently there was a good reason–perhaps to make him more acceptable to the Gentiles to whom he was preaching.
Shortly after we got married in 1965, women started keeping their own names and not changing to their husbands’ last names. I never thought of such, since my love-induced haze made being “Mrs. Stephen Boyd” very desirable. Taking your husband’s name is common again, except when women keep their maiden names (now there’s an antiquated term for you!) for professional reasons, which makes perfect sense to me. For example, I know Dr. and Dr. Schulte, which is very confusing. If she’d kept her original name professionally, patients would have known whether they were seeing a male or female.
Our daughter’s children have four names each. They have quite a heritage to live up to, with all the family names involved. Our son’s children are each named for a Bible character and a U.S. president. They, too, have something to live up to. Some names are chosen simply because the parents liked the name, with no connection to anything special.
But at this time of year, we especially appreciate the name Jesus, which means “God saves.” Another of his names is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” How blessed we are that Jesus’ relationship with us is described by such special names!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.