homepage logo

Faces on Faith: How did you get your name?

By Staff | Apr 25, 2013

Rev. Thomas E. Nyman

Perhaps your parents were looking for a Gaelic name so they called you Ashlynn or Donald. Perhaps they thought you were precious so they called you Alan, or they thought you would be powerful so they named you Richard. Maybe they named you after the beautiful Maryann in Gilligan’s Island or a famous actress such as Paulette Goddard or Vanessa Redgrave, or the poet Emily Dickinson.

If your parents had a religious bent, they might have called you Nathalie, meaning Christ’s birthday, or Zeke, meaning God is my strength, or Jane, meaning God is merciful, or John, meaning God is generous, or Michael, meaning who is like God?

You may have been named Susan or Susen meaning bright and cheerful, Virginia meaning fair maiden, or Amy meaning beloved. Maybe your parents called you George, meaning farmer, or Chip, meaning free and strong.

What do people call you? Many are called by nicknames such as Suz, Bill or Pat. Some friends of my parents wanted their children to have names that would stick. They didn’t want their children to end up with nicknames. They thought if they picked short, simple names, they would be all right.

They named their children Judy and Gene. This might have worked, but, early on, Judy and Jean’s classmates listened to older relatives of these children, relatives from Sweden calling to the children. Soon they had nicknames. They became Yudy and Yean.

We rarely pick our names. Sometimes I think our names pick us.

Our parents and our friends give us names. Sometimes these names are given in love, sometimes as teasing, sometimes in cruelty.

The Gospel of Luke in the Bible tells a story about a woman called Bent Woman.

The Bent Woman was crippled for 18 years. She was bent over; she couldn’t see the sun or stars.

Nobody in town knew her by name. It was never Sandra or Joan. They said, here comes Bent Woman. That was her name, her destiny and her fate.

Our culture has tried to lose some of these terms like crippled and blind and deaf. We want to give folks something better than a pigeonhole, like Bent Woman.

Bent Woman doesn’t have a family or an occupation. She has only her deformity. She’s bent. She bears the burden on her shoulders. She has the burden of not being like everyone else, of not looking like everyone else, of not being able to do what everyone else does. She is Bent Woman. I think she’s there for everyone who’s so named: The drunk, the retard, the fat broad, the gimp, the blind as a bat

The Bent Woman encounters Jesus. Jesus heals her. And for the first time in her adult life, she is able to stand up straight, to see the sun and the stars, and to look straight ahead.

She’s restored to what we call normalcy. But, perhaps just as wonderful, is the way Jesus speaks to her. Jesus doesn’t call her the Bent Woman. Jesus called her a “daughter of Abraham.” Jesus says she has been named by God, daughter of Abraham. Abraham is the one to whom, on a starry night, a promise was given.

God promised to make a great nation of Abraham, a nation through whom all the nations of earth would be blessed. Jesus called her a daughter of Abraham. Jesus says she is an heir to the blessings of God. She stands up straight. Even if her back had not been healed by Jesus, I think she would have stood up straight. Her life was caught up in God’s promises.

She’s not Bent Woman. She is a “daughter of Abraham.” God calls you and me, “daughter of Abraham, son of Abraham.” Go to the church of your choice and find out more about your name.