More than just titles or mere adjectives, names hold a great power over us. They act as an encompassment of who we are, where we’ve been, and who we’ve come from. Names are commemorative of our belonging, our place in this world.
However, as an adoptee I’ve had to reflect on my names. I have been given more than the average person. What names do I carry and what do they mean to me? Which names do I let define me?
At my first breath of life, my first cry, I was given a name. Though I have no memory or knowledge of such a name, I know that it could easily be translated into “love”.
The name Guang Yueyin was given to me in a crowded orphanage at six weeks old. Listed on all my records, this is the name I’ve associated with China. It represents my beginning. Yueyin, meaning ”earth, moon, and stars” points to the Creator of those things who was looking out for me during this time.
The moment I was put in my mom’s arms, I earned the name Padgett. As my adopted surname, it represents the family and the unit I’ve been adopted into. It too means love, a love deep enough to sustain me an ocean away until the long wait was over.
Juliese. Deriving from two names and without a dictionary meaning, this name gives me the freedom to grow into who I’m becoming while simultaneously knowing who I’ve been. Crafted in love, the name itself echoes prayers prayed, in love, over me before I myself came into being.
Laced together, Juliese Yueyin Padgett tells a story of who I belong to, where I’ve been, and who I am. All of our names tell these stories. My many names could confuse me. I could put value into a single name. But the very act of renaming represents redemption. Renaming recognizes who you have been, what has been done, and clothes you, in love, in new glory, for a new chapter.
“And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God.” (Isaiah 62:2b-3)
This is the prophecy prayed over God’s people. Think of it. The renaming the Lord does throughout history clothes his people in new glory.
Abram → Abraham (father of many)
Sarai → Sarah (princess)
Jacob → Israel (God wrestler)
Naomi → Mara (bitter) → Naomi (pleasant)
Time and time again it is demonstrated to us that being renamed is holy. So holy in fact, that the Lord renames us after salvation takes place. Renaming signifies a physical redemption. And redemption is simply a by-product of a love so deep it could not settle for less than a union of adoption.
That’s why, even though my birth mother whispered a name over me in love, I recognize that being renamed Juliese is proof of redemption, and I reach my hands out to receive this new name. Going from “_____” → “Juliese'' represents God’s redemptive hand in my journey.
Someday, be it God’s will, I might gain yet another opportunity to be renamed. Padgett → “____”. I will take up a new surname representing another unit the Lord has given me, a different version of the same redemption story. And even though I deeply take pride in carrying the Padgett surname, I know I never really lose the names given before, so I look with joy towards the names the Lord has to give me still. All these names add up to make a story that’s uniquely mine, that’s laced together to represent a picture of God’s holiness in my life.
So what’s in a name?
Holy redemption, rooted in love.
And if that’s the case, I’m blessed to carry so many names.