the nagging issue of a name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve written a good bit
about my adoption…and that of a quest.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions with the exhilaration of discoveries–
all of which have been met by the slamming of doors, tightly shut…
all the way to the bewildering opening of different doors, much more welcoming.

In all of this is a name…
or more aptly, two names.

A before name and an after name.

The ‘now’ name of Julie and the ‘then’ name of Sylvia Kay…

Two names for one person that were exchanged after only three short months.

The Julie side of all of this has had the staying power of nearly 60 years while the
initial Sylvia Kay side was used but for a short time…

The whys and significance of Sylvia Kay remain unknown but to one.

Albeit a brief name, it none the less has most certainly remained in the recesses of the
conscience of a certain 83-year-old woman.
She has slammed shut the door but none the less has obviously allowed this name to fester…
just as it has festered in my own thoughts.

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

The name following, which was officially Mary Julia and shortened by Dad to ‘Julie’,
has been the ‘after’ name—a name that has remained for all these many years…
the name with the real staying power of identity.

And so it was this morning, as I was reading a verse from the Bible, that I noticed
the real importance of before and after names.

I read a verse in which Abraham was referred to as Abram.

I am obviously no Bible scholar.
I was raised an Episcopalian and we all know Episcoplains are not Old Testament,
let alone Bible, aficionados.

I noted that it seemed odd as I am more familiar with the name Abraham
but I figured it must indeed be a “before” name for Abraham.

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

And it seems that I was more correct than I realized.

You’ve often heard me quote and share the teachings of a simple
Benedictine monk from Australia who is currently living in a monastery in England.
He is best known as Father Hugh—Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The good Father’s post from yesterday opened with a picture of the
Jerusalem-version lectionary used throughout England and Wales.
Father Hugh asks all viewers if they can spot what it is that is the glaring mistake…
a mistake that is actually used twice.

The glaring mistake is found in a name.
The name Abraham.

Because of where this name falls in reference to the before and after encounter
of Abram with God, it is indeed, incorrect.
Instead of the after name Abraham, the Lectionary should use the before name of Abram.

Before Abram encounters God, he is known as “exalted Father”
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Genesis 14:19-20

After his encounter and ensuing covenant with God, Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
“As for me, this is my covenant with you:
You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your
descendants after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:1-7

Why does any of this matter?
What is the big deal about a before and after name?

Well, it matters a great deal…
For we see time and time again throughout the Bible, names matter.
Names have meaning…purposeful meanings.
And in this case, the case of Abram, it matters because of the implications
of a covenant.

A covenant being an agreement.

And this agreement between Yahewh and Abram has lasting implications for all
generations to come…of which include both you and me.

On the other hand, my little before and after names are much smaller in scope.
They matter really only to me…and perhaps one other.
Mine is a simple matter of why…
Abram’s before and after is a matter of the beginning of reconciliation which
in turn leads to the salvation of all mankind.

Yes, big or small, names matter.

Please see the link below for Father Hugh’s most excellent teaching post

What’s in a Name

21 comments on “the nagging issue of a name

  1. hatrack4 says:

    Thank you, Julie. I wrote some time ago about talking to my mother about children’s names. She had a clear reason for the names of my brother and sister and then could only shrug regarding my name. It took me a while to like it.

    I like Julie.

    As for Biblical name changes there was Jacob who became Israel and Simon who became Peter and Saul who became Paul. You are among great company.

  2. says:

    I’ve always wondered about my paternal grandfather who left his wife and four children when the kids were very young. Only a cad would do such a thing, yet I still have this desire to know what happened to this man. I have made up stories in my head about what and who he was. I know only that he was a tailor by trade. He liked to gamble and perhaps had to hit the high road or lost his life over a gambling debt. These questions will never be answered for me either until I reach heaven, and then it won’t matter anymore.

  3. Nice post, Mary (sic). We may not have been Bible readers back then, but we always heard from the OT, Psalms and the NT. Gee, even some of the prayers were in the Bible without us knowing it at the time.

  4. Your story touched me. I have many adopted cousins and wonder if the “why” question troubles them also. I also have a great, great grandfather who abandoned his wife and son and went back(presumably) to Scotland where he was from. I’ve alsways wondered if I have an extended family over there. And by the way, I think Julie is the name God intended for you. You are obviously a jewel in his eye who continues to give Him Glory.

  5. SLIMJIM says:

    That must be the most strangest feeling to learn one’s first name after all these years…

  6. SharaC says:

    You know I love this name discussion. I I am fascinated at this whole topic of names… The idea of God giving you your identity, but very flawed human people giving you a name… and we have had the strange opportunity to be known and called different names, unlike most people who are just born with one. The whole thing is so complex. I was Ronna Kay, as you know. I’ve always taken great fascination and comfort in the verse in Revelation 2:17 that talks about the white stone we all will receive that contains our true name, the name only known between God and us… It’s so deep I can hardly wrap my head around it, but it holds such a special place in my heart I think because my earthly identity is a dual identity… anyways, take comfort in who you are dear Julie, God knows the true you and nobody can ever change that!! ❤️

    • Oh I need to head on over to Revelation now— it is really overwhelming and deep to think about isn’t it?! —
      Us adopted Kays shall stick together my dearest friend 🥰

      • SharaC says:

        Sometimes it’s so big I can’t wrap my head around it and I read that verse and it just sets everything right for me… I realize it’s about all believers… but it’s just extra special to me. Study it, I know you’ll love it!!

  7. I really enjoyed this name discussion! I have some name issues too, in the sense that as a child I did not learn my real name for a number of years. There was a custody battle and my mother went into hiding with me and so I was given a series of fake names. Later when I got older, I had nick names. To this day I still hesitate when people ask me my name, as if I must wrack my brain to try to remember. I often feel as if I am lying, as if my name is not my “real name.”

    I love how the Lord renames people, like Saul to Paul. He formed us in our mother’s womb, He knew us before we were born, so perhaps we may have a name waiting for us that only God knows.

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