While watching a BT Daily recently, I stopped and thought back through the years to an afternoon in a park. I was sitting on a bench next to my then-fiance, David. We were having one of many conversations about how we thought our marriage would work. In this particular conversation, I had stated that once we were married, I would like my name to be hyphenated.
I wanted to be Joy Elliott-Jones. I liked the ring of it. It sounded modern, and suited the woman that I wanted to be: headstrong, independent, career-focused, making my own way. The truth was that I was not ready to give up my own personal identity to take up that of another. I liked being an “Elliott”. I didn’t want to surrender completely to becoming a wife. I wanted to hold onto who I had been and keep it with me in our marriage. In my head, marriage looked less like “two becoming one” and more like “two remaining two, but sharing living space.”
I explained my rationale with arguments about my upcoming career, my personal identity, and my right to choose what my name should be. To my ears, my points seemed so reasonable! After I had spoken for what seemed like a long time, I felt satisfied that he would understand and agree. I had made an impassioned argument and I felt confident that he would see my side. I was wrong.
When he did speak, though, he started by explaining that his family name was not one of which he was proud. His father had done a good deal to damage that name before abandoning the family that carried it. He had grown up on financial assistance, and he felt as though that label followed him and affected how people saw him.
David wanted to build and strengthen that name, and change what it meant to be a Jones. He wanted a wife who would stand beside him and help create that new meaning with him. He wanted a wife who would surrender her past identity as he surrendered his, to create a name that would be their own—a name worthy of praise.
I have been Joy Jones for nearly 18 years. I did surrender my “identity”, but as it turns out, taking my husband’s name was never about losing “me”. I am still me, but I am better-- I have my helpmate walking alongside me. Taking my husband’s name was not about losing myself, but simply a step in becoming his wife. There were so many more steps after that… learning to trust him, to depend upon him, to walk beside him through life’s storms and see myself as a part of him… as “two becoming one”. Those steps have not been easy, and I have stumbled my way through some of them. But now as I look back at our years together, I reflect on the effort I have seen him make to create a “new name” for himself and for our family. Today I can say, with complete conviction, that I bear my husband’s name with great love and pride.
What struck me this morning is that God is asking us each and every day to take His name and make it our own. His name is not one of which He is ashamed, and He doesn’t want us to be ashamed to wear it. He asks us to let go of our past identity and to surrender that “old man” to become all that He would have us to be: His beautiful bride.
God’s gift to us of His name is beautifully stated in the book of Isaiah: “…do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine…” (Isaiah 43:1). God gives His name to us, and we have to take it and really make it our own. Just like I did in my own marriage, we will stumble at times, but our Beloved’s hand will be ready to pick us back up. I am living proof that there is truly beauty in the surrender to something greater.