Sunday, January 14, 2007

What's in a Name?

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (Eph. 3:14-15)

I heard on the news recently about a man who is petitioning the court for the right to take his wife’s name when he and his fiancé marry. According to his argument, he has brothers to carry on his family name, but his wife has no brothers to pass down hers. But this seems to me just one more instance of trying to minimalize customs and traditions that have marked civilized society for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

Since medieval times, it has been customary for the wife and children of a man to wear his name. When a daughter is given in marriage to a man, she then takes his name, which only stands to reason since it is he who has promised to protect and provide for her, just as her father did. Somehow, however, in the continuing quest for “rights and privileges,” it has become popular for married women to retain their own family name. As one woman has said, “Maintaining a maiden name for a woman is a way of keeping her personal identity, a way of holding on to one’s origin.” Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I did not marry to change my identity at all, but simply to enhance it. I am still that same young girl—Salle Jo Hopkins—who was blessed of God to be able to capture the heart and name of a wonderful man, my husband, Richard.

“Well then,” it may be asked, “Why shouldn’t you reflect that duality by using both names?” For two reasons, I think. First, God said of the first couple that their collective name would be “Adam” (Gen.5:2); and they would now be considered “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Certainly, then, if we share “one flesh,” it only stands to reason we should share one name. And, as I said, if he has offered to give me and our children his provision and protection, I do not mind at all if that name is his. In fact, I glory in it. (By the way, if a man refuses to take on this responsibility, he doesn’t have a name worth sharing with any woman. 1Tim.5:8).

The second reason is that, even though “Salle Jo Hopkins Sandlin” might seem like a legitimate compromise, it would still not sufficiently reflect who I am. After all, my identity is far more than dual, since I am not only a product of my father, but also, my mother, and their parents, and so on. I could say I am Salle Jo Sparks Blount Collins Hopkins Sandlin, but that would not begin to cover it either. In the final analysis, it is not really important who I was, but who I am today. Those who came before may have helped to shape my natural inclinations, but my own decisions are the true measure of who I am.

The Bible teaches the importance of a family name, and the verses in Ephesians three tell us the most important name a man or woman can have. I am a Christian—not as a distinction from other religions, but as a designation of a relationship. I chose to become part of the Bride of Jesus Christ, which automatically made me a child of God the Father. We are “bone of bone and flesh of flesh,” and He has promised to take full responsibility for me in this life, and that which is to come. I gladly, and gratefully, share His name.

So, who in the world am I? I am Salle Jo Sandlin; and I am a Christian. I can truthfully say, that is all the identity I need...or want.

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