Have you ever wondered what your name stands for? Do you know even? Have you ever pondered its significance and how accurate or inaccurate its definition is in correlation to who you are (your nature)? Does it ring true to who you are right now or who you hope to be? Do you wear its definition with grace, or do you fear your name? Does your name mean anything or nothing?
Names are powerful; it’s defined as a word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to. ‘So, what is your name?’ Your name can be a conversation starter. It’s a title; an honorific, a label. It contains the space otherwise filled with anonymity. To some, their name can be your source of pride, if you have ever met a Nigerian who cherishes their name more than life itself; then you know what I am taking about. And to others, a name can be as literal as an apple or a pear. However, oftentimes especially culturally, names carry weight; it carries substance.
Have you ever had someone comment saying you remind them of a specific name because of your nature? Maybe a Mark or a Johnson or a Ben, an Olivia or maybe an Ibukun or Tayo!
**sidebar: the reference to nature in this context means ‘the basic or inherent features, character or qualities of something or someone; essentially, their essence! **
There is something influential about a name that is often used to describe someone’s nature. Ever heard, ‘all Jason’s are …….’ Or ‘you don’t look like a Frankie, you’re more ………… or a ……………’ or ‘I have met many Michaels’ in my life and you don’t look or come across as a Michael’. What does that even mean? But somehow; this is the norm.
Names are the first introduction to who you are. Afterall, first comes the birthing of a child; then next thing on the agenda is often the doting celebration of your name, which in my culture means your parents, grandparents, sometimes even other relatives (if allowed) pay to name the child. They follow this with prayers and choruses from the entire room singing the names of the child in unison. In my culture, some are known to have more names than their birth certificate can carry. All this to say, names are important.
One person who had a name was Jacob. One of Rebekah and Isaac’s twin boys. His name practically means ‘one who follows on another’s heels’ and another version labels him ‘deceiver’ (NLT). And oh, did he live up to the latter. He was one that however got his name upgraded. From Jacob to Israel which means ‘God fights’ or ‘Wrestled with God’ (Genesis 32:28). I believe this also denote a change and an upgrade in his nature.
Growing up, I too was one of those who names was much more than my birth certificate could carry; so, my names were narrowed down to the ones counted as more significant; which were names given to me by my parents (OmoFolake) and my grandparents (Halimatu Shadia, among many other names). Omofolake means ‘kept with wealth’ and Halimatu means ‘gentle, mild-mannered and generous’ and Shadia means ‘she sings; beautiful voice or ‘one who has a beautiful voice’. I believe I can vouch for these meanings as a description to my nature.
**sidebar: I only recently found out the meaning of Halimatu Shadia and hmmm, not bad, it is beautiful! **
Anyways, like Jacob turned Israel, I too was given a new name.
This all came about during my time at a Catholic Boarding School. My dad very much loved the idea of giving me a new name specially to mark my official conversion into Christianity. I needed a new name; so, he decided to give me the name ‘Hellena’. He said he wanted my new name to begin with the letter H just like Halimatu did and he liked the name Hellena.
This month, I have learnt a lot about what it means to have faith and trust in God. This sparked my interest to find out the meaning behind my names. I have come to understand the importance of names and how much volumes it speaks to one’s nature.
Hellena, also spelt Helena means ‘light or shining light’. Coming into the knowledge of this, floored me. I don’t believe it was an accident that I was given a new name and it’s definition aligns with one of my favourite verses which reads ‘you are the light of this world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see; so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father’ (Matthew 5:14-16).
**sidebar: This encouraged me so much to become comfortable in being a light in the world around me, because it became more than just a name but it’s a nature to represent here on earth! **
All this to say, God’s name and nature is also extensive. He is never short of descriptive words that attest to his nature. I have come to appreciate that growing in the knowledge of who God is, is so essential and needed. Worshipping him from this perspective can only increase your wealth of faith and trust in God. It brings your worship to a new level. I am sure we all have stories of who God is, however, there something about understanding His names and nature that causes you to become more rooted, eradicates the genie mindset and brings about further comprehension to our knowledge of this God, you and I proclaim.
**sidebar: Join me on this month-long study as I venture to expand my understanding of who God is by educating myself and hopefully you on 30 names and nature(attributes) of God! Expect a new name everyday for 30 days – So help me God. Yes, you can hold me accountable! **
Disclaimer: This series is purposed to challenge, support in building and encouraging a growing faith in God. I encourage everyone to further study and research in order to grow and mature in your understanding and knowledge of who God is.