Christianity Sermons & Scripture

What’s in a name?

Some rather rambling thoughts on names, identity and who we are….

Last week I walked up a volcano. Sounds rather exotic but if I’m honest it was essentially a large rock covered in stones. A rather dramatic rock with stunning scenery, but, nonetheless a rock.

IMGP3854When we reached the top we found there was a huge crater waiting to be discovered. Now cooled, solid and approachable it was a valley of stone and in the very bottom a small patch of life. An oasis of green, and vegetation, starkly standing out against the arid and barren surroundings. But it was not this that drew my eye, it was instead the rather geological graffiti which littered the crater, as visitors from across the world had left their names or patterns in stony form. ‘Wales’and ‘Tina’ stood out rather comically across the crater in huge letters, laid out in pebbles and rocks. I wondered what made someone want to spend so much time and some risk, leaving their mark in this way. Unlike spray paint this was not damaging the surroundings and I guess could be removed but perhaps with a significant amount of work!


Last year we visited the museum of London which features an old prison cell preserved behind Perspex, leaving us able to read the centuries old carvings which occupants had left on the wooden walls. Names, dates, rhyme, all featured in this place where one cannot imagine someone wanting to be remembered.

Here in this crater the effect was the same, names littering the plain and providing a rather interesting landscape to read. Buy why do we do this? Is it human nature that makes us want to ‘leave a mark’? As a child I wrote my name on a wall in chalk at a visitor attraction. My dad was enraged and dragged me to the owner to apologise. I was frustrated and cross, I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. It was just chalk and I’d only written my name, what could be more natural? How many times have you doodled your name whilst on a lengthy phone call?


When the angel told Mary she would have a child, he told her the name too and with it also, shared his destiny. 

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

The same with Zechariah, when told of his future son, he is told the name, John, and his future is foretold. Moses, whose original name we don’t know, was given his name by Pharoah’s daughter who found him, and it means ‘drawn out’ as he was drawn from the water. Perhaps this also shows something of his destiny as God draws him out for his purpose, to be used for God’s kingdom…

Names often were linked to something of the time something relevant, or even of the persons future. Rather like someone calling a Christmas baby Holly for example.

Perhaps our human desire to write our names or leave a mark is really about calling out our own destiny? In leaving a name so publicly on a mountain or in graffiti we are leaving a part of us there, stating a fact, declaring our identity even. Is it perhaps a reassurance to ourselves as much as a sign to others?


IMG_0389One of my daughters decided to join the stony list and spelled out her own name. It looks huge in this picture, but from the top of the crater it was an illegible speck, in fact to be read from that far away it would have had to be 30′ tall! Which makes me think again of how we show our identity to others.

For some that’s in overt behaviour: being loud, wearing a certain style of clothes or mixing only with a certiain people group for example but for others even a lack of obvious or overt behaviour tells of who they are too. Clearly for us, our identity is not just in our name and I’m sure there are not many who can pinpoint their name as spelling out their destiny either so why is it so important to us?

I don’t have an answer I’m really just thinking as I write but I am rather fascinated by it… what about nicknames, people who change their name, choosing your child’s name? hmm, perhaps I’ll think on it some more… love to know people’s thoughts on it though…



You Might Also Like

No Comments

    Leave a Reply