A few months ago, I read a book called The Namesake, in which the main character’s struggle with his identity is symbolized by the fact that he hates the name his parents gave him. He was named after his father’s favorite author, and as an adult, he has his name legally changed. Gogol (admittedly, an unusual choice) explains that it was selfish and unfair of his father to expect him to share his sentiment for the obscure Russian writer, and claims that the name has always felt like a bad fit, “like a scratchy tag in the back of a shirt.”
It was unsettling to read this story as we were in the process of making a final decision about a name for Baby Tres. I felt really sorry for the father whose choice of names was rejected by his son. For it’s the responsibility of every parent to choose a name for a child before knowing what that child’s particular interests or inclinations are. In a sense, every newborn’s name represents his parents’ values and sentimental attachments, and/or their hopes and dreams for what the child will grow up to be.
We named our new baby boy Jeremiah Paul. Here’s what that name means to us:
Stephen likes Bible names, so that narrowed our scope considerably. We love that the prophet Jeremiah represents a man who is chosen by God from a young age to fulfill a difficult but important calling. In an increasingly non-religious and trivial culture, we hope that our son will have an ear especially tuned to the voice of God, and that he will boldly speak the truth, even when it costs him dearly.
John Piper says that the life of Jeremiah teaches us that “our life is rooted in the unshakable, sovereign purposes of God. You are not your own. You are God’s. You are not self-made. You are God-made. You did not first choose him. He first chose you. You are not an accident. You are a design. Your life is rooted in God and that is a great source of strength and stability in accepting God’s call.”
May our little son believe these words deep in his heart!
As if that wasn’t enough, I loved that the name Jeremiah could be shortened to “Jem,” which is what we plan to call this baby. This connects him to the beautiful, tragic world of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Jem Finch is funny, playful, creative, and protective. He’s also named after his father Atticus, who is maybe the greatest man ever imagined for the pages of a book.
Abby’s middle name, Emory, was chosen to remind her of the strong and godly heritage on my side of the family. We chose Jem’s middle name, Paul, to give him the same connection with his family on Stephen’s side. Stephen considers his maternal grandfather Paulie to be one of his heroes and role models, and he has been waiting impatiently to have a baby boy to bear that great man’s name. It’s just gravy that Paul is also the name of the greatest evangelist and missionary in history, AND that choosing this name gets me positive points with my mother-in-law.
I said this when we chose Abby’s name, and it applies again: This sweet baby may grow up to need therapy to get over many things from his childhood, but low parental expectations will not be one of them. Little Jem, we can’t wait to see the man you’ll become!