It is not unusual in adoption-world to change the name of your newly adopted child in some way. At the very least, the child is usually given a new last name at adoption, but often a new first or middle name as well. Sometimes with an older child, they can even be involved in choosing their new name.
When Bryce and I adopted last year, we received curious questions about why we chose to change our children’s names. For our son, we gave him a new first name and kept his middle name given at birth. For our daughters, we kept their first name given at birth and gave them new middle names. To us, it was significant to let them keep a name, as well as give them a new name from their forever-parents.
Did you know in the Bible there is great significance in the meaning behind a given-name as well as specific times when God changes a name? A name is often linked with identity and destiny.
Names mean things; they carry weight and importance and intimacy. To know a person’s name is to know something of them.Emily P. Freeman in “The Next Right Thing“
When God changes a name, it can mean a change in the person’s identity or destiny. For example, the apostle Peter’s name was originally Simon, which means “snub-nosed” in Greek and is a derivative of Simeon, which means “God has heard.” Then Jesus changed his name to Peter, which means “rock” (Matthew 16:18). Being a rock gave Peter a new identity in the Kingdom of God and also hints at his new destiny as a leader of the Church. Such significance in a name change! And such grace and hope for Jesus to give Simon Peter this name way before any changes in his character came to pass.
There are also two places in Scripture that speak to a Christian’s name change. In our eternal life with Christ, we may be given a new name. First in Isaiah 62:2, God says: “you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow” (bold mine). And the second is in Revelation 2:17 where Jesus says: “To him who overcomes, I will . . . give him a white stone with a new name written on it” (bold mine).
I love the name my parents gave me: Jana. In a few “meaning behind the name” searches, my name is listed as a derivative of John, which means “Yahweh is gracious.” I like that! And yet, just think: Jesus Himself may someday bestow on me a brand new name to commemorate my identity and destiny in the eternal Kingdom. Now that gives me chills.
To be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love.Madeleine L’Engle in “Walking on Water“
On our Adoption Day, Bryce and I joined–albeit in a small way–this divine act of name giving as we bestowed on our children their new names. We welcomed them into our forever family by speaking forward into their new identities and destinies. They are loved and claimed as our own, so we gave them our last name as a seal of ownership. And their new first or middle names? One daughter: full of divine Grace. Another daughter: full of divine Joy. And our son: “strengthened by God.” Amen. Oh, let it be so.