Monday, December 17, 2007

It's A Girl!

Hi everybody,

Today our son, Chris, sent me a text message that simply read, "It's a girl!" He and Luciana had just left the clinic where they found out the gender of their baby. They were both very excited. Lu is due to deliver the little bundle of joy on April 27th. This is happy news for our whole family, because we are weighted heavily on the male side right now. Making it even better, our daughter, Simoni, is also carrying a little girl, and she is due to be born on February 12th. What fun! Two little girls showing up within two and a half months of each other. Josh and Simoni are thinking of calling their little girl Michaela Renée, but haven't decided for sure. Chris and Luciana don't have a name picked out yet, but I'm sure they will be combing through the name books to find a good one.

But what's in a name anyway? In many ancient cultures and in some cultures still today the name given to a child is very important. It represents the hopes and dreams of the parents for that child, and serves as a picture of what they hope the child will become. In western culture, however, we have largely lost this concept. People in this country especially, choose names more for the pleasing sound or the rarity of the name, wanting their kid to have a moniker that is distinctive. Failing that, they play around with the spelling of the name, coming up with something so oddball that it will complicate the poor kid's life all the way to the grave.

But I think we need to be more careful about the names we give to our children. I think we need to give them names that they can grow into--names with real meaning.

When I was born my mother named me Michael. It comes from the Hebrew name מִיכָאֵל (Mikha'el) which means, "who is like God?". This is the name of one of only three angels actually mentioned in the Bible, and the only one specifically identified as an archangel. (The other two angels named are, of course, Gabriel and Lucifer, who we usually call Satan.) In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament Michael is portrayed as the leader of Heaven's armies, and thus is considered the patron saint of soldiers. Nine Byzantine emperors and a czar of Russia bore his name.

My mother and I both almost died while she was carrying me in her womb. In spite of the fever, when I was born without brain damage or birth defects it seemed to her to be a fitting name. While I was growing up she often reminded me that I was a gift from God, and that she had offered me back to God to serve Him all the days of my life. That has always stuck with me, though I have often failed to live up to that high standard.

There is a verse in the Bible that has always intrigued me. It is found in Revelation 2:17, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." This verse has puzzled commentators for centuries. But I believe that what the apostle John was saying is that when we get to Heaven and stand before the Lord, He is going to call us by a new name, a name that reflects who we truly are in His sight.

Many people hate their given names and are forced to go through life with handles they would have never chosen for themselves: Irving, Herbert, Agnes, Tiffany, Percival, SummerDawn, Edith, Archibald, Burgandy, Billy Bob, etc. But when Bubba finally kneels down before King Jesus, the Savior is going to press into his hand a beautiful white stone on which is engraved a name, a new name, a beautiful and powerful name, a name that tells how Jesus sees him on the inside. That name will have meaning. It will bring joy, not embarrassment. It will be the name Jesus will use every time he meets Bubba on the streets of Heaven. He will lean over and whisper in Bubba's ear, "My son, you are ________, and you are Mine." Bubba's face will light up every time it happens. At least, that's what I think the verse means.

One thing is for sure--the Lord knows the names of all those who belong to Him. He has our names memorized. And the Bible says that our names are inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life. At the end, when the angels check the long lists of names they may have trouble pronouncing some of them. They may stumble over Giuseppa, Franstziska, Bhaskara, Themistocles, and Ruairidh. That's OK. Jesus is going to give each of us a new name anyway.

Crazy...especially about little baby girls,

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