“What’s in a Name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous quote from Shakespeare in his play Romeo and Juliet has been the foundation for many philosophical discussions. Are names significant or are they just abstract labels attached to a person or thing, as the quote here suggests? Is the intrinsic quality of an individual more important than the name given or does the name tell something about that individual’s character, sort of foreshadowing whom they will become?
Many cultural and religious beliefs seem to favor the latter. The Bible is littered with people whose names declared what they would become. Even today when we choose names for our children we tend to favor names that are pleasant to us and avoid ones that seem less appealing. While I will not add my voice to the myriad of philosophers who have explored the topic, I will be doing a reflection on the names of my children.
I could write a story surrounding the names of each of my children — how they got their names, the meanings, and the significance it has had for them and us — but I will try to keep it as brief as possible.
My eldest daughter was born when I was only eighteen years old. At that time I was in my first year of university and determined not to drop out because I was pregnant. I lived on the university campus (as strange as it may seem) in an all-girls hall. My block was called Jade block. Her birth happened to be in the middle of my semester two final exams (I missed two of them and had to retake those courses). University was far away from my home and the only support I had were the wonderful ladies on the hall where I lived more so my sisters on Jade block. As a homage to them, I named her Jada.
At that time I did not consider what her name meant and how it would affect our lives. I later found out that Jada meant wise. I have seen this wisdom demonstrated in the choices she has made over the years. She has always been disciplined, diligent, and a leader. She is now 16 and has wisely stayed away from the crazy things girls her age have been involved in. Furthermore, she has certainly shown more wisdom than I had when I was her age.
Besides seeing this quality in her, I have seen the wisdom of God in our lives as a result of her. Her father and I weren’t married when we had her, and her prodding at the tender age of four was one of the biggest influences that united us. It was the best decision we ever made.
Six years after we had Jada, Joanna came along. At that time we thought we were having a boy. So confident were we, we didn’t bother to get an ultrasound done. The boy’s name was already picked out and ready. It was my mother-in-law who said “What if it is not Jonathan but Joanna?” and so it was. Our little grace-child came onto the scene.
Joanna means God is gracious. This grace came into our lives at the right time. Just shy of three weeks before her birth, my mother passed. This was a big blow to our family as my mother was a tower of strength to all of us. Joanna was a precious balm in that time as we sought to cope with the tragedy.
Today her character is that of grace, even in the way she walks and speaks. She has a quiet spirit, not pushy, but also very confident.
Jonathan, how did we ever get that name? When I was pregnant with Jada, the first one, my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) had a dream that he was holding up a boy called Jonathan – remember Mufasa and Simba. Putting aside the humour, he really believed he was going to have a boy called Jonathan. The boy did not come with the first pregnancy, nor did he come with the second, but lo and behold his promised child came.
Jonathan means gift of God and that’s what he was and is. He is as rowdy as any boy could be but one of the sweetest, most helpful child I know. I expect him to be impactful in the world, not because a mother is supposed to say that, but because of the character I already see emerging from him.
And then came the last two of my lot, the unexpected twins. Their names were divinely given. I had a miscarriage in June 2018 and about a month after that, I was praying and got the name, Joelle. I believed this would be a child to replace the one I had lost. Then in December, I found out I was pregnant. Sometime after that, my husband was praying, and he got the name, Joshua. Now, this became confusing. How can the one child be both Joelle and Joshua? It wasn’t until I did an ultrasound the mystery was revealed. I was carrying twins, Joelle and Joshua. Now you may notice that all my children’s names begin with J – no, it was not planned.
Joelle means Jehovah is God and Joshua means Jehovah saves. They are too young for me to say how their characters are linked to their names, but I can say that they are both here because Jehovah is God and because He saves. I had a challenging pregnancy resulting in them being born prematurely (you can read the story of their birth ‘Birthing Twins and Postpartum Depression’). Besides that, they were both in the hospital nursery for a week. I subsequently suffered from high blood pressure and had a bout with Postpartum depression. Joelle had been below the average weight for her age for a while and her physical development was slow. She is just now catching up. My husband calls them the miracle twins, and for us, that’s exactly what they are.
So whether you believe that names are important or you choose to agree with Shakespeare that they are just arbitrary is up to you. The debate goes on. I know our children’s names are memorials marking significant milestones in our lives. They tell how much God has been a present help to us. And they give us hope that these young ones we are raising will leave their imprint on this world.