I like my name. It’s easy to pronounce and spell. When I was growing up, I didn’t know any other girls named “Abby,” so it felt unique without being weird. (Fast forward to 2018: There are plenty of little girls with my name now!) The name Abigailcame from a real-life Bible heroine, a woman whose first marriage was to a fool and second marriage was to a king (1 Samuel 25). She was smart and brave and beautiful and knew how to pack a picnic for 600 fighting men. That’s a high standard to live up to, but names can do that to a person.
When we named our four kids, I knew I wanted short names. I spent a few years helping kindergarteners learn how to write out their names, so I knew it could be a daunting task. (Just ask a few of the kids from my first class: Jacqueline, Christopher, and Alexander.) Naming our first three kids weighed heavily on me. I made lists and handed them over to my husband for veto. (Our youngest son’s name came to me in a dream, so no lists were generated and no veto power exercised.)
There are loads of times (like daily) when I get the very carefully chosen names of my very cherished children wrong. I regularly call one of my twin daughters by the name of my younger sister. I call my other daughter by her twin sister’s name. I call my older son by my husband’s name and my younger son by his brother’s name. I even call my husband by my older sister’s name. It’s not unusual for me to sound like an auctioneer just trying to summon a family member.
I read once that a mom mixes up the names of the people she loves the most, because her love for them is equal. I like that hypothesis. That explains why I never accidentally throw in a name of someone I don’t love unconditionally into the mix. For example, you won’t hear me running through the list this way when I’m calling one of my kids to come to the kitchen: “Come here, Ella…I mean, Lucy…No, Knox…Ugh, Jezebel…Ezra!” It just wouldn’t happen.
Names are important and naming a human being is no trivial assignment, but names are actually placeholders for what you really want to call them, but don’t always take the time to say. In place of his name, I really want to call my husband: “Man-I-love-and-rely-on-and-admire-most-of-all-people-ever-and-who-I-still-think-is-cute-after-20-plus-years-of-marriage” but that would take too long, and it definitely wouldn’t fit in my phone contacts.
Our names are more than what’s on our driver’s license and how we introduce ourselves to others. Our names are our reputations. They are a few steps in front of us before we enter a room. Rather than just a series of vowels and consonants, our name is what is generally known about us. Our names can be the revealing of our past and unmasking of our personality. As it says in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”