A Moment in Time – June 7th, 2019
June 7, 2019
“What’s in a Name?”
Yesterday, I shared a letter with you that I received from my biological father when I was 12 years old. He was living in the U.S. and I lived in Bermuda. Now remember, this was before facebook, whatsapp and all the other advances in technology that make communicating across countries far easier today. A letter or call from overseas really was and felt like OVERseas, especially coming from someone I had never met or communicated with.
As promised yesterday, let’s return to an excerpt from my father’s letter. It reads:
“Hello TyRon, [TyRon] my son how are you doing? This is Ronald, your Daddy. So glad to hear from you. I’m glad you finally wrote me. Say, I’m sorry that you didn’t win the Spelling Bee contest but I’m very proud of you that you came in third. Tyron [Tyron], listen, I want you to know that as soon as I can get you here for a summer vacation, I will send for you.
Ok. Let’s pause there and process this: In this letter, my father spells my name two different ways: TyRon and Tyron. Neither of which is correct. My name is spelled Ty-Ron (yup, that means as a black male in professional settings, white folks always know Im a brotha before I enter the room J– but I digress).
What’s significant is that my name—much like my identity forming experience—has often fluctuated. Most people today know me as “Ty Douglas”. Many assume that is short for Tyrone or Tyler, some have pronounced it ‘Ty-run,’ but few know and correctly spell Ty-Ron [spell it].
What’s in a name, you ask? A name represents elements of identity; it often signifies the hopes, history, beliefs, style, context, culture, identities and expectations of the name giver for the one who receives the name.
There’s no coincidence that God changes particular leaders’ names as affirmation of a shift in identity or character. Remember we talked about Joseph yesterday? Well, his father Jacob, after wrestling with God, had his name changed by God, from Jacob to Israel, as recounted in Genesis 32:28. Jacob aka Israel would not only be the one to raise the dreamer, Joseph, but Jacob was also the father who ran to the back of the tent as his wife Rachel was dying while giving birth to Joseph’s little brother. As Rachel was dying, she sought to name this child “Ben-Oni” which means “son of my sorrow or pain”; Jacob intervenes and says, no, no, no, boo: My son will be called “Benjamin,” which means “son of my right hand.”
Deep, right? An attentive father (who had his own issues) affirms the identity of a child who was emerging from the womb of a hurting, dying mother.
So I have to ask you a question. What’s in your name? What is in your name? More specifically, what did your father name you? Whether absent, present or somewhere in between, what did your father deposit into your identity? Did he give you his heart, his name, his work ethic? Did he give you religion, instead of an example of a healthy vertical relationship in God and horizontal relationships with you and others? What did he give you? Some of you may need to call a parent to explore the origin of your name.
What’s crazy in my naming experience is that at one point I thought my name was Ty-Ron because I had a cousin name Tyrone and my mom was trying to give me something distinct. My mom informed me that my father was actually the one who suggested she go with ‘Ty-Ron’ rather than Tyrone so that his name was reflected in my name. However, I never saw ‘Ron’ in my name because I never saw ‘Ron’ in my life. Deep, right? And even today, saying “Ty-Ron” feels a little weird to me. Anyone who calls me “Ty-Ron” knows me from way back in the day or we just met.
I’ve come to discover that names can embody the mission and vision of the one being named: for me, I’ve concluded that part of my life’s mission is to ‘Tie-Ron’—to tie together and finish some stuff that Ron didn’t get to; to be a bridge to his family and to share hope with a broken and complex world.
Whatever your naming experience has been, I am encouraged by the fact that our heavenly father will give each of us a new name when we get to Glory! As you journey with your current name and complex lives, know that you have a heavenly Father who not only knows your name but he ordained your existence, celebrates your persistence, and is with you today, tomorrow, and until we see Him face to face.
Today, I need to pray for someone as we close out this week: Father, someone is listening who feels far from you. Like me as a 12 year old boy who was disconnected from my biological father, they feel disconnected, distant and confused as to who you are and where you are in their lives. Make yourself clear to them please, so that they may experience the peace and joy of your salvation and a life of purpose and fulfilled promise, in Jesus name, Amen.
This is Dr. Ty Douglas, author of Border Crossing Brothas, and I want to invite you to experience SALT—So Amazing Life Today; it’s available to each of us, in Christ.
You can reach Dr. Ty at www.DrTyDouglas.org and follow him at @DrTyDouglas.
Link to purchase Border Crossing Brothas: https://www.amazon.com/Border-Crossing-«Brothas»-Navigating-Critical/dp/1433135388