What’s in a Name?

Posted on October 4, 2011 by in Blog, Love, Trust

My very first day ever of school was horrible. It was not the typical separation anxiety from my Mom; I was excited about going to school. My sister had been going for a year and bringing home the wonders of reading and finger painting and I was eager. I will grant you that I had a growing anxiety about getting my two milk-money pennies out of the knot Mom had tied in the corner of my handkerchief to prevent their loss. But that wasn’t the bad part.

After she had settled us into seats and quieted us down, my teacher called the roll. I was interested in this process and looked around identifying each student with the name called. I recognized a few faces from my neighborhood, and now I knew their names, too.

And then Miss Pinkham called a girl with the same last name as mine: Roberts, Karen. I looked around the room with everyone else but no one responded. Again, my teacher called her name, “Roberts, Karen.” On the third call she was looking directly at me. My mind was spinning – I felt like I had done something wrong but I wasn’t sure what. My name was Teeny. No one had ever called me anything else.

“You are Karen, honey,” Miss Pinkham said and smiled. I felt tears start to sting in my eyes but held back. I heard a few giggles and felt the heat in my face as tears slid down my cheeks. I didn’t even know my own name.

If you’ve ever taken a Dale Carnegie course you know that they place great emphasis on learning names. They say that hearing someone speak your name is the sweetest sound that you can hear.

God also places a high regard on names. In the Genesis 17:5 we see him change the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah as a covenant and a promise that from them will come kings and nations.

In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestles with “a man” (verse 24) who changes his name to Israel in verse 28 because he has “striven with God and with men and [has] prevailed.” When Jacob/Israel asks the man’s name he responds “Why is it that you ask my name?” This is a typical Jesus response, if you ask me, answering a question with a question! But then He knew Jacob wasn’t really interested in His name. Jacob wanted to know what God could do for him, which is true to the nature of man. So then He blesses Jacob/Israel, which is also true to the nature of God. To me the critical verse is 30:

“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’”

Jacob knew it was God, and trusted that God knew him. He knew God’s name and put his trust in God. Just like it says in Psalms 9:10:

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

As much as I love Shakespeare, I think he got it wrong. “A rose by any other name…” implies that the name is not important. Our identity is wrapped up in our name. Our name IS important to God as is shown in the scriptures above. Everything about us is important to God – He counts our hairs! Not a task I’d want, though it doesn’t keep him too busy with mine.

I learned what my name was that first day of school but I didn’t know who I was for a long time. What is important is that God always knows our name and he loves and guides us. Though we fight against him, and like Jacob, he has to put our hip out of joint sometimes, when we finally hear him call our name, it IS the sweetest sound we have ever heard.

Have you heard Him call your name, or are you struggling not to listen? Have you been called by a different name and don’t know who you really are? Be at peace. When you know His name he will tell you your name.

Psalm 89:15-17:

“Blessed are the people …
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
16who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.”


2011 Conference ThemeIt’s not too late to register for the 2011 Wellspring Women’s Conference scheduled for October 7-9.

Karen Sleeth

Karen Sleeth has lived in North Carolina for 27 years. Karen is asking the hard questions in 2011, trusting God for the answers (even when they are uncomfortable), relying on faith in the face of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, and believing Him for miracles because he promised Mark 16:17

9 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Marie Quick 15 October 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    What came to my mind just now as I read this was that God spoke our names and breathed the breath of life into us while we were just a thought in our parents mind. I use to go by my first name Helen until I reached age thirteen and decided to go by Marie, my middle name. I could never stand to hear my first name used until God redeemed my name and told me that He is the One that named me and not my parents. Hearing God say that to me blessed me to no end. Now, when I hear my first name Helen used in doctor’s offices or on the street I no longer cringe or cry but I am thankful that God made me just the way that I am.

  2. Easley 5 October 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Yes, I was just talking to someone about the importance of names recently….we asked God for direction with our children’s names! They do hold meaning for the plans God has for our lives. Thank you for this reminder/encouragement! God is using you, Karen, and is pleased, LOVES YOU! I do too!

    • Karen Sleeth 5 October 2011 at 9:40 am #

      Easley – you and your entire family (and you know who I mean!) are such a blessing to me. I love you! Thank you for the encouragement.

  3. Gloria Cotten 5 October 2011 at 8:06 am #

    I love this blog, Karen! Thank you. Even before I was formed in my mother’s womb God knew me and called me by name. Amazing Truth! He not only KNOWS me, He LOVES me! I pray He makes this even more real to us this weekend.

    • Karen Sleeth 5 October 2011 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks, Gloria. I am often amazed that He thoroughly knows me and STILL loves me! :)

  4. Diane 4 October 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Thanks Karen for saying out loud what I already knew in my heart. How wonderful to be loved by our amazing God. I look forward to this weekend and what He has for each of us.

    • Karen Sleeth 5 October 2011 at 8:46 am #

      What I love about this – is that your name is so personal and specific. It isn’t a “He’s got the whole world in His hands” kind of love – although that is true. And what an amazing honor to be able to love and trust a God who loves us so much!

  5. Pauline 4 October 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Great blog, Karen!! Wonderful reminder of how important we are to the Lord!!


    • Karen Sleeth 4 October 2011 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you, Pauline! Isn’t it great to know He knows us when we don’t know ourselves? WHEW! ;-)