RITE OF PASSAGE: What’s in a name?
Each morning, at his request, 3-year-old Ray’s mother pinned a bath towel to the back of his T-shirt. His young, imaginative mind transformed the towel into a brilliant blue and red magical cape. When he was wearing it, he became Superman! Outfitted every morning in his cape, Ray found his days packed with adventure and daring escapades. After all . . . he was Superman!
Last fall, his mother enrolled him in a Mother’s Day Out class. During the initial interview, the teacher asked Ray his name. “Superman,” he politely answered without a pause. The teacher smiled, cast an appreciative glance and a wink at his mother and asked again, “What is your real name, please?” Again Ray answered, “Superman.” The teacher closed her eyes for a moment, sensing that the situation called for stronger authority (or maybe just hiding her amusement). She spoke again, more sternly, “I must have your real name for the records.”
Realizing he would have to play it straight with her after all, Ray glanced around the room. Hunching closer to her and patting a corner of the frayed towel at his shoulder, he answered in a hushed voice, “Clark Kent.”
This would have been funnier if it hadn’t happened to . . . me. My youngest son Caleb has a best friend by the name of Peto (pronounced “Pete-O”). From the day they met until today, Caleb and Peto have maintained a very close relationship. One summer, while our children were elementary school age, my wife and I attended a conference at Glorieta, N.M. We enrolled both our children in a week-long children’s program.
On the first day, the program staff asked Caleb for his name. For some reason, he told them, “My name is Caleb Moore, but I go by . . . “Peto.” For the rest of the week, all the workers called him by his friend’s name. We didn’t discover it until one of them sat down to talk to us about some accomplishment that “Peto” had managed to attain. Cathy and I were amazed that someone in Glorieta, N.M. would know the name of our youngest son’s best friend in Tulsa!
Halfway through the conversation, we caught on. The staffer wasn’t actually talking about someone named Peto in Tulsa. Instead, she meant someone who was calling himself Peto right there in Glorieta, N.M. Having the investigating powers of Sherlock Holmes, we deduced that Caleb had chosen that week to change his name. Still, on the last day, as we were loading our car for the long drive home, it seemed odd when different staff members walked by, yelling, “See ya later, Peto!” As far as I know, this was the last time my son has ever gone by a name other than . . . his own.
Today, it often seems that we have forgotten to teach our children the importance of their names. When Cathy and I found out we were going to be parents, we spent a tremendous amount of time trying to find the perfect name for our coming baby. We looked at all the cutesy possibilities, but we soon realized that everyone in the Bible received a name that meant something. Sometimes the names reflected good things and at other times, bad things, but each name had a meaning for the individual. Even in the announcement of the coming of Christ, the angel said “‘. . . and they will call him Immanuel,’ which means, ‘God with us.'”
We decided that we wanted to give our child a name that stood for something-a reminder of God’s purpose for his life. We named our first son “Jeremiah” because we wanted him to have a prophet’s heart. We named our second child “Caleb” because we wanted to raise a child with a mind set on the Promised Land. It has long been my prayer that my sons would grow into their names. I believe God has helped them do . . . just that.
When the boys were growing up, I reminded them when they left the house that they were charged with upholding the Moore name. Even today, the things they do affect everyone else in our family. In the same way, my heavenly Father reminds me as I leave His house to ask myself whose name I am carrying. I need to remind myself that, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
Dear Father, help my sons as they continue walking out the truths of their names. Help me to show them through my words and actions that the most important name I represent belongs to . . . You. Amen.