What’s In a Name?

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. ~Charles Spurgeon

It’s been nearly thirty years, but the memory is vivid.

I sat at the round Formica kitchen table. Pap on my left, Matt across from me. The tv attached to the wall was silent while we ate lunch.

“Why do they call you Abe?” I asked. “Your name is Howard. How do you get Abe out of that?”

Matt’s grandfather peered at me through large brown glasses. Wisps of white hair floated above a mostly bare scalp. He set down his sandwich and frowned.

“Because I have a big nose.”

I laughed.

I hate that I laughed.

It was obvious I had hurt his feelings.

Never in a million years would I have hurt that precious man of God. He was kindness and love wrapped up in gentle quietness.

He was an old man, but my laughter brought back the pain of a child.

Names define us.

Americans spend months choosing just the right name for our children. Some cultures don’t name the child for weeks or months after it is born. The child must deserve the name it is given.

My own name means “Harvester of the Moon.” My Chinese friend chose to call me “Autumn Song.” My father called me “Heifer Foot.”

Which one would you choose?

Do you wear the name tag “Loser?” What about “Rejected,” “Unacceptable,” “Disgusting?”

Do childhood nicknames stab your heart?

Do overheard whispers ring in your ears? Fat. Lazy. Stupid. Worthless.

Do you introduce yourself but think, What a liar.

What if you instead heard “Loved,” “Forgiven,” “Longed For,” “Special,” “Beautiful.” These are the names God the Father has given you.

Will you come running when he calls your name?


The nations shall see your righteousness,
    and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married. Isaiah 62:2-4 ESV

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