Writer’s Note: I originally wrote this for my children. The original has been edited for this public format.
I have two names.
Not the typical two names that most people have – first name, middle name. No, I have a first name and a nickname. I do not have a middle name.
Teachers and others would use one name and I would have to answer with a caveat to call me by the other. If I had a dime for every time I had to do that in my life, I truly (and literally,) would be rich.
There is a story behind my naming. This is that story.
Last night (Wednesday, January 27), I was reading Acts chapter 9. This is the chapter where Saul converts to being a Christ follower. He had just received legal (religious) permission to kill & persecute Jews. He was on his way to Damascus when a bright light flashed & then he heard the loud voice of the Lord calling his name, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?. (Acts 9:3-4)
I began thinking about Saul & his name (eventually) being changed to Paul when I came to verse 10 (in Acts 9 ) where the Lord called Ananias’ name in a vision.
The Lord knew his name.
This naturally led me to think about my name. Would the Lord ever call my name? Did he ever call my name? I know he called me, “My daughter”, but I don’t remember my name being uttered. Then again, what name would He use?
See, there is a story about my name. My parents fought over what I would be named. Or, so I was told. My dad wanted “Elena”. My mom wanted “Sunny”. My mom relented, but said I would be called “Sunny”.
Imagine that, if you will – having that idea, that story, hanging over you your whole life.
My father and I have never been close. We’ve never had much of a relationship to speak of. So, I began to ask the Lord not only if He ever called me by my name, but if I continued to go by “Sunny” just to spite my dad since he wanted “Elena”.
I don’t think that was my motivation in the past. Nor do I think I go by it now for that reason, but I could very well have and just don’t remember. That story isn’t easily forgotten.
I was listening to a bible study on Acts 9 today (Thursday, January 28). Coming to verse 10, the teacher started talking about her name and what it meant. This got me wondering about my name. Not ‘Sunny’, but ‘Elena”.
Now, I could have sworn I had done this before, but my findings today felt new. Obviously I can’t look up “Elena” since that’s Spanish, so I looked up its English counterpart, “Ellen”. One site I found defines it as, “torch of light”. Sounded cool, but since “Ellen” is derived from “Helen”…I knew “Helen” was Greek, so I looked up the Greek meaning of it.
The meaning was “torch”.
Elena —> Ellen (torch of light) —> Helen (torch)
Pair that with “Sunny”, which needs no definition (light) and it makes sense.
Fast forward to tonight (January 28) when I was talking with my mom. I wanted to ask her about the story to make sure I had it right. I didn’t want to keep walking in belief of a story that wasn’t true. She said it was true. Although, she tried to qualify it by saying she doesn’t know how to argue, so she more or less just gave in.
As I was talking with her about Acts 9 and the meanings I discovered about my names, I was talking out a revelation God was speaking to me at the very same time. What the enemy meant for evil, God turned around for His good.
My life began – no, even before I breathed my first breath on this earth – began with conflict. It began with discontent. There was conflict about my identity or who I was to be called. Chaos, conflict, arguing, disagreement, discontent —— all of that has hung over my name. Which name? It didn’t matter.
The story hung over me.
Speaking it out to my mom, I realized everything that the enemy has tried to do to me my entire life. He has tried to keep me from realizing who I am, who God made me to be. What the enemy meant for evil…ha!
My names go together!!!
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) says,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Before I was born or even formed, my parents argued over my name.
But, God knew me BEFORE. He knew exactly what my name should be. He knew my parents were going to argue or disagree about it. And yet, the two names they argued over, my two names, go together. It made my mom laugh with delight.
I am a torch of light.
The enemy tried to rob me of my identity. He succeeded for too long. I have let the pain of my parents arguing about my name be a noose around my neck my entire life. No more.
I am a torch of light. Jesus is the light of this world. I believe I am to carry His light into this world, wherever He leads or takes me.
I believe I am only scratching the surface of this revelation. There are other things the Holy Spirit has shown me today, but I don’t have the full understanding of them yet. I’ll share when He lets me.
For now, though, you may be wondering why I am sharing this with you. It’s not that I feel a big weight has lifted or anything like that. No, it’s more that I am so filled with joy for my Lord. My amazement in how He worked and has continued to work in my life cannot be explained. To go from a conflict identity to a peace identity – darkness to light – just leaves me humbled and so in awe of Jesus.
Oh how He loves me. I know it more today than ever before.
You may find yourself at the end of my story wondering about you and your name. I can’t speak to your situation, but I can speak to what Jesus wants you to know from my story.
Know this: He loves you. Know how much He cares for you, even before you were born. He cares for you when you feel close to Him. He cares for you when you feel far away. He knows your name and he cares about your identity.
And, He cares about how you walk it out.
I let others’ actions cause pain, confusion and uncertainty in my heart for too long. Not just with my name, but other things people had said or done to me.
Don’t let others’ free will choices dictate how you view God. Yes, they hurt you. Yes, they disappointed you. Yes, the pain can be so deep that it feels right or normal to us. But, God wants us to live free in him, not in bondage to others actions.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
He knew you. He knows you. He wants to know you more. The more you know His name, the more you will know yours.
If you would like to know Jesus and would like to pray a prayer of salvation, simply say these words out loud:
Dear God. I come before you today, acknowledging that I am a sinner. I can’t save myself. Only you can. I believe you sent your son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I also believe you raised him up on the third day to conquer sin, to conquer death once and for all. I ask you to forgive me, God, and restore my relationship to you through your son Jesus. I want an identity that YOU define, not me. I now walk by faith and not by sight in knowing that one day I will be with you forever in heaven. Thank you, Lord for your love and grace and mercy.
In Jesus name…..Amen.