Friday, October 7, 2011

What's In a Name?

If I introduced myself to you as Beth Bowen Vedvik, you would learn a little bit about me. You would most likely address me or think of me by my first name, Beth. My maiden name, Bowen, would tell you of my father's Welsh heritage; Vedvik reflects my husband's Norwegian heritage and that his religious background was likely Lutheran (which it was). But unless I told you more specifically about my family history, there's not much more you could learn from my name alone.

I read a similar intro in a Bible study book I'm working through, and I applied my information to it to hopefully spark some self-reflection in you as well. I have always been somewhat fascinated by my family's heritage but even more so now that three of my grandparents have passed away. I am thirsty to hear stories and learn more about where we came from so that I can pass that information down to my girls. My current Bible study delves into the life of Joseph, and I never before deeply considered the tradition of names in the Hebrew culture at that time. Jacob's twelve sons and one daughter were named in the Hebrew tradition of identity and purpose. Each name reflects the emotional state of the mother. Man! What a list.

At the end of one of the devotions, the author encourages the reader to look up the meanings of his/her own first and middle names and to find out if there were any special circumstances surrounding birth and/or the choosing of a name. Honestly, this exercise started out as an afterthought for me -- something I accomplished a couple of days later -- but it has been the most thought-provoking. Beth is Hebrew in origin and means "house." Anne is also Hebrew in origin and means "grace, favor." Wow! All of a sudden my eyes were opened to an unknown spiritual heritage that I had never wondered about.

When I looked up Beth first and saw "house," I immediately thought "Makes sense." I long to be a house for God. That is, I desire for the Holy Spirit to make a home in me, to dwell in me and guide me. That's hefty but not anything new for Christians. However, when I put it together with the meaning for Anne, I started thinking about "House of Grace." These questions have been running through my head constantly: Do I provide a house of grace for my family? for my friends? Do I practice granting grace to my husband? to my kids? to myself? I have freely -- and gladly!--accepted grace from Jesus Christ, from my parents, from my husband, from my girls, and from my friends. Do I give it quite so freely? And I can't remember a time that I prayed specifically for enlightenment concerning grace, that I would gain a deeper understanding of all it entails and then apply it to my life.

"Grace" is defined as "a manifestation of favor" and also means "mercy, clemency, pardon." Grace comes in many forms: the Bible talks about discovering grace, powerful grace, receiving grace, and the eternal gift of grace. God's greatest act of grace is the gift of salvation that is available to everyone through faith. Jesus purchased every sinner -- ME! -- with his own blood on the cross. I don't want to ever take that for granted, and I don't want its full weight to grow light over time. I desire a deeper understanding of grace; I want it to spring from me freely, the outpouring of Christ who is alive in me. I don't want to give it begrudgingly, because I "have to." I want to evidence grace as it was evidenced to me. Proverbs 22:1a says "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth." I have a wonderful name. I want to live up to it.


The Bible study is called: Joseph:Beyond the Coat of Many Colors by Mary Englund Murphy.
It is available to purchase at  Click HERE if you wish to purchase.


Mary Englund Murphy said...

Thank you, Beth, for the comments. Paul B. forwarded your blog to me, and I'm glad the study is a blessing to you. Mary Englund Murphy Do you mind if I post the name of the study?
"Joseph: Beyond the Coat of Many Colors"

Chris said...

Mary - I took the liberty of adding a link to your website and to a place one could purchase your study. Thanks for visiting The Intentional Journey!