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. ~ Revelation 2:17
I wanted my kids to have strong and beautiful names because I never liked my own. “Carol” has always seemed so boring. Ordinary. Movies and TV shows conveyed it. The only cool Carol I ever remember while growing up was Carol Brady, but she was a mom. The popularity of my name peaked in 1939. Yeah. I guess I was born almost 30 years too late.
Over a decade ago, though, I gained a new appreciation for my name. I knew it was of English origin and meant “song”, but that didn’t seem significant until I found myself in a pit of deep depression. During that season, while trying to claw my way out of that black pit, I discovered a verse that gave me hope in the midst of despair.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
And put their trust in Him. ~ Psalm 40:1-3 (emphasis mine)
When I read it, I immediately knew it was a promise from God to heal to me. He was going to bring back my joy, the joy that had evaded me for so long. After God revealed this verse to me, He showed me another tidbit about my name. Not only does it mean “song”, or “Christmas song”, but a “song of joy”. That gave me even more reason to hold on to hope.
Within a few months, God did heal me of my depression. I’d never experienced the delight of living as I did after He lifted me out of that pit. I wanted to share my story with anyone who’d listen.
More than ten years later, I sensed God leading me to write. I’d never done any writing, nor had I ever had the desire. I felt inadequate to step into such an overwhelming task and grappled with my lack of ability in that area.
But one day, while researching names on Google, God showed me another significant definition. I found the name “Carol” also has an Old German origin. Since I was born in Germany, this piqued my interest. Scrolling down the page, I drew in a sharp breath as I read the meaning; “free man”, “strong”. Wow. God had fulfilled His promise of bestowing me with a song of joy. He’d set me free from the hopelessness of depression. I knew He’d give me the strength to fulfill whatever calling He had for me, in spite of my weakness.
I began to write, and He’s affirmed me every step of the way. He’s surrounded me with a community of great Christian writers who’ve taught me how to write and have encouraged me when I was sure I must have misunderstood God’s call. He’s even given me the privilege of winning several awards at a writers’ conference and, just last month, gave me the honor of being published in one of my favorite magazines, “Guideposts”, confirming I’m following His path.
This past weekend, I went to the Allume blogging conference where I heard the author Emily Wieringa speak. She shared many of the struggles she endured during her childhood and early adult life. Her father was a pastor who wasn’t there for her when she needed him. He saddled her with strict rules and high expectations, which led to her developing anorexia at the age of nine. She couldn’t control much in her life, but she could control whether or not she ate. Because of this dreadful disease, she became emaciated almost to the point of death. After four years of struggling with anorexia she had an epiphany—her lack of eating was only detrimental to her. She began to eat again.
During the session she shared that after she’d recovered from a second round of anorexia in her early adult years, she heard God speak the word rest to her. He also told her He was giving her a new name—Annabelle. Her given name, Emily, means “hard worker”; “industrious”; “striving”. Her entire life she’d lived out her name, trying to earn God’s—and everyone else’s—favor. Growing up, her parents even had the meaning of her name framed and hung on her bedroom wall to emphasize it. But that name had been a burden instead of an inspiration. Her new name, Annabelle, means “joy”; “beautiful”; “loving”; “lovable”; “graceful”. It was like a balm to her soul. She finally felt free to stop striving and allow herself to rest—to experience real joy for the first time in her life.
I cried as she shared her story.
Names are important. They can change our perspective and show us how precious we are to God.
Maybe you’re like Emily and have lived with the burden of your name, for whatever reason, but have never heard God speak a new name for you.
Or maybe you’re like me, never appreciating your name, but God hasn’t inspired you with a new meaning.
One thing we must remember, regardless of our given names, is that our identity doesn’t have to be tied up in that name. Just as I thought my name made me ordinary and Emily’s name burdened her with expectations, that didn’t really define us. Our identity ultimately is revealed through our relationship to God. If we have dedicated our lives to Him, He is our Father. Therefore, He calls us “sons” and “daughters”, “beloved”, “friend”, “masterpiece”, “treasure”. These are some of the names that allow us to bask in God’s love–names that truly define our worth.
Do you know the meaning of your name? Do a little research. You may discover something about it that will inspire you. Or take one of the names I’ve listed above (or others listed in the Bible) and claim it as your new name. I’d love to hear your story about your name.