Bob Dylan whined it best, “The times are a-changin’.” This story–in which a man allows the internet populations to select his daughter’s name–is just more proof of that.
Names used to be a big deal. William Shakespeare (whose birth and death are celebrated this week) famously penned, “What’s in a name?” just prior to his Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. But the fact that the star-crossed lovers couldn’t, in the end, wriggle from their family names answered that rhetorical question with an emphatic, “Quite a bit is in a name.”
Or at least, there used to be quite a bit to a name. These days people rely on the internet to name their children. And while, sure, that is an extreme example, you can’t argue that the process hasn’t changed with some of the crazy names out there (“North West” anyone?) that are, in essence, meaningless. “They sound cool” or “It is really in right now” goes the rationale for some.
And while I don’t agree with this, I do agree with choice and freewill and people can do what they want, so long as it doesn’t bring harm to anyone (the mythical twins “Orangelo” and “Lemongelo”, come to mind here).
But things weren’t always this way. Names used to have deep meanings, with blessing and character qualities and destiny poured into them. Naming a child was a big deal, and even changing the name to befit calling or circumstances occurred frequently.
This latter point also indicated that names mattered to God, as the Bible has several instances of Him renaming His servants based on the mission He had purposed and called them for.
Name-giving also was means of proclaiming authority in olden times. This is why it is especially noteworthy when Jesus is declared to have a name that no others can name–it is saying that none have authority over Him, a fact that will be especially apparent at his glorious (and terrifying) second-coming.
But we don’t have time to unpack the essence of ancient naming here. However, we also cannot allow the decrease of what names may mean to many now to dilute the importance of them over the ages. To allow this to happen would be to miss many a precious statement about who God is and how His characteristics co-mingle with man throughout time.
Names, indeed, matter despite us. Names matter because God gives and has a name, and it is by that name which we know all else.