Okay, this may seem weird and awfully random, but stick with me.
If you’ve read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, you’ll know that her writing is captivating while being slightly trippy, but it also contains so many hidden slivers of truth. I enjoyed her first book in a trilogy, A Wrinkle in Time, all the while wondering what planet she was living on when she wrote it, and then, after that, I picked up and proceeded to plow through A Wind in the Door, a title that should have clued me in to the bizarre I was about to encounter. I mean, really. Wind can’t be in a door. That’s silly. And then there was A Swiftly Tilting Planet, where basically nothing made sense at all.
But I loved it. Loved it. Laughed hysterically. Wept openly. Was riveted.
More than anything, it was the concept of “Naming” that L’Engle introduced in A Wind in the Door that fascinated me and has been swirling around in the recesses of my mind for years. To Name something, according to the story, was to assign it its very being, meaning, worth, value, importance, significance. Essentially, to Name something was to love it. And not just to love it—to love it unconditionally, no matter the hurt it had caused or the mess it would get into, and to affirm what it inherently is
Let me give you an example. Here’s a short piece of a passage toward the end of the book. Please ignore the crazy character names… as I said, Mad Madeleine just thinks a bit differently from the rest of us.
“I Name you Echthroi. I Name you Meg.
I Name you Calvin.
I Name you Mr. Jenkins.
I Name you Proginoskes.
I fill you with Naming.
Be, butterfly and behemoth,
be galaxy and grasshopper,
star and sparrow,
It goes on for a while, but the noteworthy aspect is that the speaker Names the antagonists (the Echthroi), the heroes (Meg and Calvin), the bizarre supporting characters (Mr. Jenkins and Proginoskes), and the universe at large, giving them all the same amount of significance, value, affirmation, and, at the core, love.
But really, isn’t that fascinating? The idea of naming things—or Naming things—has long captured my interest. When I was growing up, my grandmother kept a book on a shelf called The Name Book, which lists, according to the tagline, “over 10,000 names, their meanings, origins, and spiritual significance.” I used to still pore over this book for hours, looking up the names of my friends and family. And let me just say… some of you had unkind parents. Bless you.
In middle school, I took two Latin classes that gave me a solid understanding of language. Then, in college, I had a dear professor-mentor who loved etymology, the study of word origins. She taught me to adore the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) and how to deconstruct any unfamiliar word I came across to surmise its meaning. I still remember when she swept into class and introduced us to “petrichor,” which the name for the smell after it rains. It’s made up of the Greek word “petros,” meaning rock or stone, and “ichor,” which is the fluid that flows in the veins of Greek mythological gods. Apparently two Australians came up with it in 1964. Who knew, right? Such an interesting name for a common phenomenon, but it gives it meaning and significance.
I remember reading a particular passage in Revelation for the first time in high school, and it blew my mind: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). A secret name known only to me and to God? Yes, please! Who are we that the King of all creation would give us each a holy, new name, when His victory, through us, is complete?
Recently, a line in the newest movie version of Cinderella struck me. When her stepsisters label her “Cinderella,” Ella is crushed, and the narrator states, “Names have power, like magic spells.” It’s absolutely true that a name has the ability to edify or belittle. They can even create or destroy.
So, this thing with names. It seems to be a trend in my life right now.
Okay, here’s the point: names carry weight. They mean something, and they stem from something.
We are given a name at birth, but that doesn’t dictate who we are. We are called by names not our own by either enemies or friends, but those names too don’t have any bearing on our identity. Our earthly names can change with marriage… or divorce. Our enemy will do whatever he can to make us think that what we’re called is who we are. But that’s not true. It’s not.
The only Name that truly matters is Jesus Christ, and we can trust the names that He’s given to us:
These things and more are who we are in Him, and that’s all that matters.
In case you’re wondering… and I know that you aren’t… but still.
Origin of “Amber”
Language/Cultural Origin: Latin
Inherent Meaning: Like a Jewel
Spiritual Connotation: Cherished
One More Interesting Thing:
After I started writing this post, someone posted an article on social media about names and dating. I won’t address it here, but it’s brilliant and spot on. And it has a lot to do (somewhat loosely) with what I’m talking about here. This is it if you want to read it.