What’s in a Name?

by J. Michael Blackston, M.A.

The moment is still etched in my mind.  It was the 4th of March, the day our daughter was born.  For anyone who has witnessed the miracle of birth, it is hard to find adequate words to describe such an experience.  Worship. Joy. Wonder.  While this experience will stay with me, this is not the moment that haunts me.  It is the one that occurred about three hours later.  Friends and family had come and gone, we settled into the room we would call home for the next few days, and the nurse had just completed a check of the baby’s vitals.  “Get some sleep,” the nurse said.  “I’ll be back to check on her in a few hours.”  It was midnight, and Rachel was exhausted.  She had just labored with determination and sheer beauty for close to 17 hours.  She quickly fell asleep while I reclined on a chair with our beautiful girl sleeping soundly on my chest.  And then, as I stared at both of them, it hit me.  “She’s ours…she really is ours—what a good gift from God.”  To appreciate this gift—who we named Hannah—you must know more of the context, more of the backdrop.  To know Hannah and the meaning of her name, you must first know her story.

The desire for a baby began almost four years earlier. Initially, Rachel and I thought it would take just a few months, but after the first few pregnancy tests were negative, we began to fear.  What if we cannot get pregnant?  Is God punishing us for something?  What if He does not want us to have a child?  Month after month, as I saw the crushing disappointment in Rachel’s face, my fear turned to anger.  I demanded answers.  Why? Why, God?  Why can’t my life work the way I want it to?  Yet, even in my demanding questions, I knew God was up to something.  He always is.  Psychologist Dan Allender writes, “Tragedy always moves our story forward.”  Sometimes life just does not work.  We are hit with tragedy—both big and small.  You discover your husband’s infidelity or addiction to Internet pornography.  You get the 2 a.m. phone call with news that your teenager has been arrested for drug possession.  You wonder if there is more to life than getting through the mundane workweek–only to find it is Monday again.  You long for a child but are met with persistent rejection.

For us, the months turned to years.  We wrestled with God, shed tears of longing and grief, and tried hard to surrender to His plan.   Just when we thought we were surrendered, a new surge of anger or grief would surface.  Friends encouraged us and discouraged us in their attempts to make sense of the situation.  And then, after more than 36 months of resounding nos, we got a yes.  We laughed, partly because we knew we hadn’t deserved it.  It had been one of those months we doubted, closed our hearts to hope, resigned ourselves to self-protection.  But isn’t that how God so often works—He meets us when we feel we least deserve it?  Hannah’s name, which means gracious, is rooted in the barren Hannah of the Scriptures.  She was a strong woman, one who persistently pleaded her case before God for a child.  Many in her time thought she was mad, even a drunk, but this did not stop her from praying her deepest desire.  The story does not say how long she waited, but we do know that eventually God answered Hannah’s prayer with the blessing of her son, Samuel.

But the stories of our lives do not always turn out so good, do they?  You may find yourself in a situation filled with disappointment, loss, or hopelessness and wonder why or how you should keep your heart alive with desire and hope.  Yet we as humans are hope-filled creatures.  No matter what the adversity, we cannot kill the hope that is within us.  It is an innate part of who we are as image bearers of God.  Last October, Rachel and I started a new chapter in our story when the doors to Redeemer Counseling opened.  Just like Hannah’s name, the name Redeemer is birthed out of our belief that God longs to bring healing and hope to every life marred by the inescapable brokenness of this life.  We sometimes get glimpses of His redemption, like the moment I sat holding Hannah on the day of her birth when “all is good in the world.”  We also still wait–sometimes patiently and sometimes not so patiently–for Him to restore other places in our lives.  Do you know the unique stories God has given you?  What about the unique names of your stories?  Discovering them is risky and requires you to discover the plot, the triumphs, the tragedies, and the characters that accompany every good tale.  Indeed, the adventure is paved with uncertainty, but you soon may find yourself caught up in the much bigger Story and the great Author behind it all.

Categories Article | Tags: | Posted on August 13, 2012

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1 Comment

  1. by Rebecca

    On August 15, 2014

    Great post Michael!

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