Author: Loyd Jenkins
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
As I was at my desk struggling to design something for Mother’s Day a couple of weeks ago, I decided upon an image of an elderly Guatemalan woman holding her grand-daughter. My wife took the picture back in March when she visited Paradise Bound, one of our partners in Guatemala. When I asked about the baby, I was surprised to learn that the baby in the picture did not have a name yet. Later I learned that in developing countries babies are sometimes not named right away due to the possibility that the child may die. Some of the newborns may not have a name for quite some time. It is difficult to imagine waiting for your child to cross a health threshold, that could take weeks or even months, before naming them.
What a contrast! Here in the United States we name our children way before they are even born. For many of us we take great delight—and sometimes pain-staking effort—in picking out just the right name for the child. I have three, young daughters and each had been named at least six months before they were born. I couldn’t fathom my children coming into this world without a name. But my family doesn’t face the same health issues as in developing countries.
So what’s in a name? What makes a name fit the person? I wondered about this for some weeks. At first my considerations were rather perfunctory, wondering why some names appeared to fit certain people, or why some people either didn’t mind their names being shortened or took great care that no one attempted to shorten it.
Yet I found that a name creates identity within the person at a much deeper level than merely identifying one person out of many. Names create a lineage and legacy of existence and may possess certain qualities such as honor. Maybe that is why God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Jesus changed Saul’s name to Paul and Simon’s name to Peter. In each case a new identity was created, a new mission, and they memorialized it within their names.
As I think about the plight of women and children’s health in developing countries, it is my hope and prayer that we can do more to improve access to health resources so that they may be able to share in the joy of naming their babies much sooner in life.