Your Name Is a Challenge
by Pastor George Van Alstine

It’s fun to look up the meanings of our first names and see if the name fits the person who answers to it. In my immediate family, I live among people whose names mean things like “Praise,” “God Is Gracious,” “Crown,” and “Princess.” My name, “George,” means “Farmer,” so you can see what my place is in the family pecking-order.

Most of us were given positive, hopeful names by our loving parents. Maybe we should take stock at this point in our lives to see if we’re living up to their expectations. If not, let’s accept the challenge to be more like the person our name promises.

Unfortunately, some of us have given a more limiting meaning to the name we bear. Instead of living up to the name, we’ve been bringing the name down from it’s original lofty meaning by living an uninspired life.

I remember when Judy and I were considering names for our soon-to-be-adopted son. She suggested “Mark,” but that really turned me off. When we discussed our different perspectives, it became clear that to Judy “Mark” denoted a close friend and hunting buddy of her brothers, a big, strapping guy who had done military service as a paratrooper. By contrast, my “Mark” image was associated with a little mousy guy in high school who hardly ever spoke. So we backed off of “Mark,” and when Judy suggested “Steve,” I thought that had a nice ring to it, so I agreed. It was years later that it dawned on me that Judy’s first boyfriend had been a “Steve.” Some coincidence!

Well, however you got to be who you are, you don’t have to be stuck there. You can give new meaning to your tired old name. By living life victoriously, you can put so much positive content into that name that people begin to give your first name to their babies. (Although, if your name is “George,” don’t hold your breath.)

Or you can go even farther. You can choose a new first name that sets a course for the renewed life you, with God’s help, are determined to live. There are some significant name changes in the Bible, the most dramatic of which are “Jacob” to “Israel,” “Simon” to “Peter,” and “Saul” to “Paul.” In each case, the new name was associated with either personal conversion or a special divine calling, and in the Biblical accounts, the men involved took aggressive action to move in the direction God was pointing.

You don’t have to tell the world about your new name. Prayerfully consider what God is calling you to do to step out of your old limitations and into the new paths he has prepared for you. Review Biblical stories or names of people whose positive Christian lives you admire. Or you may even go through a list of the meanings of baby first names until you find one that expresses the call you are feeling.

Pin this new name tag on yourself, where only you and God can see it. Then look at it often, reminding yourself of the challenge it contains, until it becomes the symbol of the new you. As this new you begins to feel comfortable, you may want to share it with a couple of friends so they can remind you at crucial moments of the person you are becoming.