Names have a fascination for us. Parents may spend months considering options for children’s names before they are born. The way they sound, their popularity and especially their meaning are often involved in their choices. In other cases, it may be the name of a parent, grandparent, or other well-loved person.
In some cultures, the definitive name isn’t given until parents have an idea of the child’s physical characteristics or personality, and then that’s considered, in terms of the name’s meaning. I knew of a very pale woman named “Blanca Nieves” (Snow White) in Spanish, and a redheaded friend was Robin.
How New Names Happen
Names or nicknames may be changed at some point in a person’s history. When my children were in Scouts, they were given names of animals from Kipling’s Jungle Book, which gave them a sort of new, exciting identity.
There may also be spiritually inspired names, such as those representing a religious conversion. In some cultures, for example, new Christians like to adopt Biblical names when they enter the faith.
In my youth, I asked to be called by the closest equivalent I knew of to my name in Spanish, Margarita, to identify with my having grown up in Latin America. It was also easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce, though over the years I began to invite people to call me by my birth name (Marjory/ Margie) again. One distinct disadvantage of the alternate name was that English speakers tended to relate Margarita with a popular cocktail, whereas in Spanish it means a daisy, a flower that is lovely in its simplicity.
Several of my family members have actually adopted different names legally; in one case, it was to reflect a family surname from the past.
Immigrants may find that their names are hard for those in their adopted country to pronounce, so that they choose an “easier” name, although they might not change it legally.
New Names in Scripture
Several Biblical characters were given a name change to represent a change in their lives. Abram (“Exalted father”) became Abraham (“Father of multitudes”) to reflect God’s promise of his descendants being as many as the stars in the sky, when it still seemed ludicrous. God tells him he will be the father of many nations, and that prophecy has come true.
Another Old Testament patriarch, Jacob (“Supplanter”), became Israel, He who prevails. He was in some ways an anti-hero, having gypped his brother out of his birthright and being exiled for years; much later, he returned to his homeland. After having wrestled with an angel on his way, his relationship to God apparently changed. He was reconciled to his brother Esau.
Simon became Peter, the Rock, much as his faith famously wavered three times before Jesus’ passing. However, this disciple’s faith had also meant he was the only one to walk (for brief moments) on water. Jesus himself declared that Peter was his new name! True to his new spiritual nature, Peter became one of the pillars of the early church. Once brash and impetuous, he became a powerful leader.
“So we see that these different names are given to people as a blessing from the Lord, to signify that something about them, their nature or their life, has changed in some way”.
Future New Names
In the book of Revelation, we are told of several rewards that God’s faithful ones will receive one day. My favorite is the white stone, with a new name written on it!
“And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it”. (Rev. 2:17 NIV)
Without a doubt it will be better than any name we’ve ever had, very unique, perhaps very intimate.
There are different interpretations for that stone, but the color white often signifies purity. I think of our slates wiped clean when we give our lives to Christ.
One metaphor that may be hinted at here is that of a custom in Biblical days. The jury in a court used a small white stone for the verdict of innocent and a black one for that of guilty. So this this little stone may symbolize our freedom in Christ. The final verdict: our penalty has been paid and we are innocent!
(Unsplash: Timothy Eberly)
Perhaps our name will mean something like “Innocent” or “Free at Last” or “Warrior” or “Beloved Child”. It will apparently be personalized and unique for each one of us, reflecting our new identity as children of God. It will be a special love-gift, a secret one.
Do you long to receive your new name some day? I certainly do!