Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's In A Name?

Photo credit: Lora Bruton

My son knows my name. Not just "dada." He actually calls me "Joel," but only in certain situations.

When he's calling for me and I'm not paying attention to him, he'll change the way he addresses me. I'm on my laptop, my iPhone, or busy putting a disc into the Blu-ray player, so the designation changes.

"Joel! JOOEEEL!"

There are powerful connections between names and identity. Just look at all the times in Scripture where someone's name is changed after an encounter with God. Abram becomes Abraham. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul. A name can conjure up a variety of meanings and connotations. The names "Adolf" and "Osama" are nearly synonymous with evil and terror in our culture. Similarly, the names "Gandhi" and "Bono" stand out as powerful voices for hope.

(Yes, I just put Gandhi and Bono in the same category.)

Other common names elicit our own emotional responses based on the people we know with those names. What emotions come to mind when you hear about Brian? Or Sarah? Or Mike? Or Elizabeth? You probably know someone (or multiple people) with that name, and I'm willing to bet that there's an emotion connected with it.

Here's the thing: I don't want my son to associate "Joel" with "Dad isn't present with me; he's distracted by something else." I don't want that to be my identity, and I'm working hard to change any perception my son might have that I'm not completely with him and for him. I'm hoping that he begins to associate "Joel" with "Passionate follower of Jesus," "Godly husband," and "Father who truly loves me."

What are the connotations, emotions, and values associated with your name? How might others perceive you when your name comes up?

No comments:

Post a Comment