I’m super-excited to be working on a new Bible Study series called Namesake. This is the culmination of years of a minor-obsession I have with names in the Bible, where they come from, and how God often changes people’s names when He changes them. The series will start August 21 on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights. I’ll put the complete schedule at the end of this post.
All this thinking about names has me remembering the conversations we had when trying to find a name for Drew. For months it was hard to get the iHusband to be serious on this topic. I would throw out an idea and he would counter with: “How about Belteshazzar?” Funny? Yes. Helpful? Not so much.
When we finally got down to business, we decided to continue a little family tradition – just two generations running – of giving a kid his dad’s first name as his middle name. Drew’s name is Andrew James. His dad, Jim’s, is James Robert. His dad (Drew’s Pawpaw) is Robert Alan. You see how it works. It’s a way of embedding a little bit of history in a name. A subtle nod without going so far as: “Jim Junior.” LaGrone men tend to resemble one another anyway (those are some strong genes!), so naming him full-on after his dad would be just too confusing.
I grew up around quite a few guys named “Junior.” It took me a while as a kid to figure out that wasn’t their proper name, but a place-holder. A way to distinguish them from their male relative, usually their dad, for whom they were named. Some guys went by “Bobby” while their dad was Robert, or “Little Ken” when their dad was Kenneth. I even knew a few that were the third bearer of their given name. John Tristan Alexander III went by “Tripp.” Norton Barrett Hargis III was “Tres.” Clever.
My favorite, though, is one of my father-in-law’s cousins. Named “John” after his father, from an early age he was simply called “Ditto.”
Ditto. That’s really what these families are saying when they give a child the same name as one of their parents or relatives. Ditto. Repeat. Do it again. You give someone the name of another person because you want them to emulate the qualities that make that person great. You want them to grow up to be, not a copy of that person, but a reflection of their strengths.
No one ever names their child after someone who really hurt them, or annoyed them, or gave them the creeps. That’s one of the issues expectant parents face when they begin the tough task of agreeing on a name for their baby-to-be. One prospective parent likes the name Sydney. The other dated a Sydney who broke his heart, so that’s out. One likes Lucas. The other remembers back to Kindergarten, where little Lucas ate paste and smelled funny. No chance for that one. This gets especially complicated when your spouse has been a teacher (like mine) and hundreds of names are already ruined by little punks from classrooms past.
When you share a name with someone, you want the commonality to mean a resemblance of sorts. For the namesake to share more than just initials. To grow up into a likeness that the original can be proud of.
When you pray, pray in my name, Jesus said.
I’ve been wrestling lately with what Jesus really meant by that. I’m pretty sure it’s not some kind of spiritual credit card where we can charge up what we want, like: Just put it on my Father’s tab.
I think it might be closer to: Take my name. Call yourself after me.
Be my namesake. Let your prayers be my prayers. Your actions be like my actions.
That’s a tougher one than just ordering up the prayers I want and naming Jesus as a kind of magic word at the end. Abracadabra… In Jesus’ name! Instead, while I’m praying I’m supposed to check my motivations, survey my heart. What do these prayers say about me? If I’m growing into the name “Christian,” do my desires reflect the Christ at the center of that name?
I want to grow up to resemble that name that I’m praying in.
I hope Jesus is proud that he offered it to me in the first place.
Namesake is a 6 session Bible Study series that I’m teaching this August and September at The Woodlands UMC. On Sunday mornings August 21, 28 and September 4 I’ll be preaching the 8:30, Harvest and 11:00 services, and then teaching again on the following Tuesday evenings at 7:00 (in the sanctuary) for Tuesday Teaching and Conversation. We’ll record those sessions on DVD to be used later in Bible Study format by other churches and groups. I’d love it if you’d join us for the launch and be in the “live studio audience” for the recording of this new series!
Do you have a story of someone who is named after someone else? How did names of people in your family or in your past influence your choice of names for your children?