The Name Game

The Name Game

On track meet Saturdays in high school, I’d wait to see how they’d mangle my last name in the program and over the loudspeaker. It became a thing.

Polito. Pronounced Po-lee-toe.

Easy-peasy, right? Or not.

Over time, it was pronounced Po-lie-toe. Pimento. Pluto. And, my favorite, Posquito.

Living in a rural area that was predominantly German Catholic, my Protestant family with its Italian last name stuck out like a sore thumb.

So I became accustomed to some level of name-mangling. Then I met him, the boy with the amazing name. Sure, I fell for that skinny, funny guy I met in college before I even really registered his last name.

But I can still remember the first time I saw it. We were hanging out in his bedroom, and I noticed a certificate hanging on the wall.

“Your last name is May?” I asked, with a sense of wonder.

He didn’t find it outstanding; he had grown used to his attractive name. But, May. It was, well, pretty. It happened to be the name of my favorite month of the year. It contained one syllable. I couldn’t imagine it ever being pronounced wrong.

I didn’t know it at the time, but three years later, I would take that charming name as my own.

***

Our eternal Father has a name fully lovely, wholly beautiful. God. Oh. My.

It’s the name that conjures the Creator of the universe. It’s a name that rolls the beauty and majesty and power of all He is, all He was, and all He will ever be into a deceptively simple, three-letter package. God.

Though we could study the many names of God, though we could dig into the Hebrew, the Greek, the names of Jesus — for our purposes today, let’s stick with God. G-O-D.

It’s a simple name, no? One syllable, three letters (just like my last name), impossible to mispronounce?

Or not.

We mispronounce God a million ways every day. We utter His name as an expression of disgust. We hurl His name in anger. And, worst of all, we toss it around like a common scrap, loosely woven into conversation, without any thought of what His name is, what it means, what it should invoke. Oh. My. God!

Forgive us. We forget your commands.

***

Less than six months after getting married, I realized “May” could be mangled too.

I went by the nickname for Elizabeth, Beth, so I usually introduced myself as Beth May. The one-syllable first name became problematic. Beth May over the phone becomes Beth Mae (with no last name). It also becomes Bethany.

My May troubles didn’t ever reach the level of “Pimento” mistreatment, but if you meet me today, I am Elizabeth May. If you call me on the phone, I’ll be pairing my three-syllable given name with my one-syllable married last name. My children all have three or two-syllable first names. And, it works for us.

Oh. My. God is not so lucky.

I speak as an occasional abuser; I am not blameless, for certain. Yet, I was raised in a household where taking the Lord’s name in vain was emphatically NOT okay. And, I raise my children to respect God’s name and use it when they’re addressing their Lord God, Heavenly Father — NOT when they’re mad or frustrated or just need something to flesh out a sentence.

Just as we don’t appreciate it when our names are mispronounced, mistreated, or misused, so much more does the name of God demand your awe and reverence. His name should be a shout of holy exaltation, not a condemnation. It should be an expression of love, the adored recipient of reverent, whispered prayer, not a base and thoughtless exhalation.

You may think your casual exclamation blameless. You find this way of punctuating your sentences harmless. And, if, as a Christian, every time you utter His name you can say you do so in praise, in reverence, and in full recognition of His pure character, you are indeed glorifying your Father.

If you are not, though, might I suggest that God would prefer you leave Him out of the matter?

“Let them praise the name of The Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory {is} above the earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13

 



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Comments

  1. Oh I love this post! What a wonderful reminder of keeping God’s name pristine in our hearts and on our lips. And I love your stories!

  2. Oh beautiful thoughts on using His name in praise and reverance at all times!!

    (as a girl with a very easily butchered Dutch name, I was delighted to marry a man with a very common last name! 🙂 )
    Julie Wilson recently posted..A Story of Love and for the Love of StoryMy Profile

  3. Elizabeth,
    I enjoyed learning the story about your maiden name, your married name and treating God’s name with respect. Wishing you a blessed weekend with your family 🙂
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted..Five Minute Fridays: HeroMy Profile

  4. While I know we’re not supposed to use the Lord’s name in vain, the way you related it to your name journey really brought it home. Thanks for sharing this.
    Kacey recently posted..Working Professional + New Baby = Shifting PrioritiesMy Profile

  5. Oh how I agree! I cringe when I hear someone say God’s name in vain. We recently went and saw a very popular movie, it was a comedy, and they used God’s name in vain so many times I stopped counting. After the movie I made a comment about it to my husband and he said “I could tell it was bothering you I looked over at you every time and you were visibly cringing.” I was cringing, but I was also praying for the people in the movies who obviously don’t know God or else they wouldn’t agree to a script that spoke like that. Asking God to forgive them, bc they don’t know what they are doing.
    It also makes me sad how many of my children’s friends use it so casually. I used to not say anything, but I’m getting more bold in my old age 🙂
    Alecia recently posted..Grace-Filled PeopleMy Profile

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