My cousin's daughter has been blessed with a new baby. My mind has been on her family these last weeks for a couple of reasons. For one thing, my oldest baby is half a world away, serving his country. The contrast between her life and mine is intriguing. She is in the years when protecting her children means car seats, outlet covers and holding hands to cross the street. I'm still struggling to let go enough to put my baby's safety in God's hands and trust Him with my son.
The other thing that is skittering around in my tired brain is her beautiful baby's name. They named him after his Great-Great-Grandfather (that would be my grandpa). It's a strong, old-fashioned, old world kind of name and I LOVE it. I love the idea of bringing an old name back into the family. I love the idea that maybe, just maybe, that may also bring back some of the special qualities of my grandpa. My grandma would have been so very pleased. I can hear her saying his name, with her Holland accent, and I can imagine her happiness.
I wonder very much about names. How much does a name influence who we become in life? I don't know very many people with old-fashioned names that grew up to become Emos. (is that how you spell that?) Maybe we treat someone named Mary different than someone name LeTinosha, and so they grow up differently? Maybe there are some innate instructions that come with a name--some mysterious directions on how to grow up?
Who would I be if I had a different name? If I were named Sarah, would I be more soft and sweet? If I were named Helga, would I be stronger and more stubborn? (I'm not at all sure it's possible for me to be more stubborn than I am.) My first name is old, and a little haughty. It's a name that might belong to a librarian. My middle name is more sweet and delicate. My second middle name is melifluous and musical and once belonged to a child martyr. I put those together and what do I get? A bookish, tender-hearted poet? Well that isn't exactly me. Maybe if I mix up the qualities....someone who likes to read and listen to music, who tends toward cynicism? That could be me. Part of me, anyway. I don't know. It's a riddle.
And who will this newest member of the extended family be? Of course I realize that I don't get a vote, being only a second cousin, once removed. (Or something like that.) But if I had a vote, what would I hope for? I'll hope he has his great-great-grandpa's sense of humor, his courage and his tenacity. Maybe he'll have his great-great-grandma's enduring grace and patience. I'll hope he has his great-grandma's wisdom, strength and compassion and his great-grandpa's work ethic, and his joy for life. I'll hope for his grandpa's tender heart and his love for the outdoors. I'll hope he gets his grandma's generosity and caring ways.
I suppose, that as much as anything else, the name we carry through life is a comment about our roots. An old family name nourishes the deepest roots. Our parents teach us about love, discipline, faith, expectations, honor and values. The name they choose for us tells us about what they hope for us, and expect of us, where we come from and where we are going.