My 7-year-old son, Haydn, asked me a good question the other day. He asked, “Mom, how do parents know what to name their kids?” At first I thought it was cute that he didn’t realize it is completely our choice, but then he made some interesting observations. Haydn spoke about the phenomenon of how we look like our names, how they are so connected to who we are. He was simply amazed at how perfectly our names fit. And he wanted to know how us parents pull that off when we are coming up with these names. Two days later I was dropping him off for his last day of school and I always like to do a final appearance check. You know, no dried up toothpaste on the face, eyes free of crud, no bats in the cave, etc. I told him he looked great and asked him how I looked. He replied, “You look like an Aimee!”
Born in 1975, “Aimee” was a popular name choice. My parents claim they didn’t see that coming, but I was not thrilled to have a plethora of Amy’s as classmates. When the teacher called on “Amy,” we didn’t know which one of us she was addressing. That’s how I ended up naming my daughters Solanna and Zaidee. The spell check doesn’t even know their names. But there is more meaning behind them than just originality.
I always wanted to name my daughter Summer, but then I married a Byrd. Then it became a little too hippie-sounding for even me (and it really backfired for my boy name, Blue). But then I stumbled upon the name Solana, meaning sunshine. I’ve always loved the name Anna, so I just added another “N” and there you have it. We call her Solanna, Solee, So, So-Bo, and the affectionate, Nanna, which is what babies learning to talk usually call her. Each of my kids names have a story of how they got them, along with endearing nicknames added to them. I’m sure it is that way for every family.
But, nonetheless, if I Google Solanna, I find that it isn’t a name unique just to her. While reading Loving Well, I was reminded of Rev. 2:17:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Just think about that—receiving a name from our Creator and Savior that is intimate and unique to each one of us. It makes sense for God to rename us, like he did Abram and Saul, according to our new glorified bodies. But what’s the deal with the white stone that it’s written on? There are valid differing views on this, but I’m inclined to Sam Storm’s description of how they were used as a ticket of admission into public festivals. This could infer admission to the messianic feast of Rev. 19. As a married woman, this connection makes sense to me because I have already been given a name change to reveal a new status. Our new name will identify us with our husband, Jesus Christ.
But there is also great intimacy in that it is a name that no one else will know except the one who receives it. This makes me think of all the affectionate names that we give those who are closest to us. When my son entered first grade last year, he discovered there was another Haydn in his class (his dad insisted on the name Haydn). But he wasn’t bothered, and just informed his teacher that everyone in his family calls him “H.” He gave them all the permission to call him “H” as well. We also call him “Big H,” “H-bomb,” and sometimes by his middle name, Charlie. Haydn revealed the hidden intimate nicknames that his family affectionately called him.
I like how Storms explains the hidden part of this verse:
In this regard we must also remember that the “manna” given to us is described as “hidden” (Rev. 2:17a). Some believe this is simply a reference to its having been “hidden” in a jar in the Ark of the Covenant, but I think something more is involved. If Jesus is himself the manna, perhaps the point is that all that awaits us in him is “hidden” in the sense that it is reserved and kept safe and guarded against all possibility of loss so that we might revel in its certainty and the assurance that what God has promised, he will indeed provide.
To sum up, there is an identity you have in God, reflected in your new name, that transcends whatever shame or regret or disappointment is wrapped up in who you are now. There is a very private and personal place of intimacy with him that brings hope and freedom and joy that none can touch or taint or steal away. Paul said it best when he declared that “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3b). Peter echoed much the same thing in saying that we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4).
Just like with naming our own children, each of our new names will have a story of meaning attached to it. We will gladly surrender our old name to bear the name of our new husband, as we’ve been made into his very image. Our new names will show Christ’s intimate, saving love for each one of us. Our new names and new bodies will all further proclaim the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ. And I’ll be ready to celebrate at that feast!