Do names matter, or was Shakespeare right when he wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?
I spent many years growing into my first name, Elsie. When I was young, I deeply wished it had been Elizabeth, like the queen who was crowned in the year of my birth, rather than Elsie, like the cow on the Borden’s Milk billboards! But I had a sister whose middle name was Elizabeth. I wished I had a middle name I could use, like two of my older sisters, and my younger brother.
Eventually I got used to my name, but I clung to Shakespeare’s line about names and roses. I lived into my name, and hoped others would associate my name with more positive associations than the billboard cow with the scalloped collar that I was teased about as a child.
In my fifties, I asked my aging mother why it was that some of us got middle names and others didn’t. She replied that when my next older sister and I were born people in her rural community thought giving a middle name was too Catholic, so she had refrained from it.
This set me to wondering if I could add something to my name. Hyphenating my family name had never really been a name-extending option for me. Rempel-Rempel? You see what I mean.
That fall I told my adult children that I didn’t need any more stuff for Christmas, but I’d really like to have a middle name. Would they be willing to help?
They complied, and that year for Christmas I received a calligraphy picture and legal documents that would expand my name to Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel. They said it was the hardest gift they had ever picked for me and I loved it! The five of them (three biological children and two daughters-in-law) had given it great thought and finally narrowed my “middle name” down to two Hannah (grace) and Ruth (friend). What an amazing gift to get from adult children and daughters-in-law!
Delighted with my new names, I wanted to use them everywhere. I soon learned to be selective, for such a long handle isn’t always appropriate. However, when I appropriate Isaiah’s, “I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1b), I feel God whisper “Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel” and smile. My middle names help me remember that I am beloved by my children and my God. So names do matter.
What do you hear when you reflect these beautiful words of Isaiah’s?