Today’s Word from Deacon Amy…

My oldest daughter, Ava, has a new baby goat – well, she doesn’t have him just yet as he needs to spend a few more weeks with his mom, but he is all hers. She is, of course, head-over-heels for this little guy, but she’s struggling to choose a name for him. Several have been thrown around; Sven, Wally, Trevor, and Eugene to name a few, but none have stuck just yet. For now, he’s just “the little guy.”

The conversations got me thinking about names. I remember painstakingly selecting names for my children. It took months to choose names that were “just right.” We wanted names that sounded nice, had special meaning behind them, and wouldn’t easily lead to any silly nicknames. Names are important.

Proverbs 22 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” An interesting sentiment to ponder.

I have a retreat that I like to do with middle-school students as we begin our Confirmation journey in the fall. The whole weekend is centered around names and identity. I have the students fill out a sheet that has ten or twelve blank lines that start with “I am…” The catch is that only one line can include their name. I give my personal examples that “I am a mom, I am a Deacon, I am a Christian, I am an animal-lover…” the list goes on. It’s really interesting to see what the kids come up with as they make their own lists. A lot of them center around sports, hobbies, and school. Some lean toward descriptive words: I am kind, I am fun, I am a good friend. These phrases make me smile. I like to hear that my students think positively of themselves.

At the retreat we watch a video about the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestled with a stranger. After they wrestled the stranger “said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him.”

He blessed him, and gave him a new name. A powerful name. A name that we claim today; we are the people of David, of Israel, or Abraham. We are God’s people.

One of the last things that we do at the retreat is to talk about our own names. We share the stories behind our names, how our parents chose them, and any special meaning behind them. We also look up the meanings of our names and think about how those meanings apply to us – are they accurate descriptions? Do we live up to them? Do they seem silly?

Names are important. They carry a lot of weight. I’m always curious about names and the stories behind them. I’d love to hear yours.

Oh – and if you have any name suggestions for Ava’s new little friend, pass them along!

Deacon Amy