What's in a Name?
In the popular Shakespearean tragedy, Romeo & Juliet, there is a famous balcony scene where the two teenagers profess their love for another. The scene goes as follows:
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.
For those of you who snoozed through your English Language Arts classes or grew up believing that Shakespeare wasn’t interesting..dare I say boring even: firstly, shame on you! And secondly, if we can just be real for a second, it was probably because you didn’t have a teacher who was doing what they needed to help you understand the language and actually realize the absolute treasure and gift that Shakespeare was. Any who, as I step down from my English literature education soapbox, allow me to be that teacher for you today and break down the meaning of these lines.
In this scene, Juliet is confessing her love for Romeo while professing that she does not care that he comes from a rival family. Essentially, she is telling him that his name and identity are of no importance and will in no way stand between her deep love and affection toward him. She presents her case by stating that names are just names and have no real meaning, connection, or ties to a person. They can be overlooked and disregarded. She uses the famous line: What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet, which basically sums it up.
However, as much as I love this play and its writer, I have to disagree with Shakespeare on this one. There is so much power in a name! And it's my belief that God was very intentional about your name, your family, lineage, birth, and overall identity.
Have you ever stopped to wonder about the significance of names? In a world that seems to be slipping more and more into deception and despair, now more than ever, it is important for us to be fully aware of who we are–and more specifically, who God created us to be.
If you are at all like me, you have probably had the assignment at some point in your elementary or maybe even middle school-aged years, where you had to do some sort of report on your name. I remember being in 5th grade when I first had to do it, and I was so thrilled to learn more about myself. It was mostly because I grew up not really liking my name. Elizabeth was such a basic name–there was nothing unique or special about it. On top of that, I hated that so many other people had it–it was way too common for my liking. When I asked my parents why they chose that name for me, they said it was after my father, who is named Eliezer, and that they liked that it was a biblical name as well. My dad would often lovingly call me “the queen” while growing up, in reference to I think we all know who (the late Queen Elizabeth). Then there were my two middle names, which I was very curious about. I am the only sibling with the honor and distinction of having two middle names, so that was pretty cool. The first middle name is an ode to my mother, a combination of her first and middle names, Anne-marie and Josette, which resulted in Joann. My second middle name, Andrée, is after my paternal grandmother whose name was Andrécile. I always loved this fact because as a child, I was repeatedly told how much I resembled my grandmother. They said I was the spitting image of her and it made me beam with pride. I would spend what felt like hours some days just staring at her photograph, wishing I could have had the chance to meet her, to talk to her, and to hug her. She was the matriarch of her family; a strong, God-fearing woman who bore 8 children. She was definitely a warrior woman and someone that even though I never knew, felt so connected to.
This was all part of my identity. My roots, my ethnic ties, my history–all within my name. Within me were the stories of two driven, family-oriented, loving yet firm, hardworking, unrelenting in their faith, women--as well as the women that came before them. What an honor.
But it got even better!
Then there’s my last name: Laguerre, which in the French language means “the war.” My father, as I mentioned in a previous post, is a pastor–and one of the smartest people I know. Growing up, he would always give us these mini lessons on the history of his native country, Haiti. I was fascinated by these stories; captivated by the courage, bravery and fortitude of the Haitian leaders. Men like Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture became my idols– so much so that when I had my own child, I made Toussaint his middle name. How they could win their freedom through mobilizing the enslaved Haitian people and overtake their French colonizers without a trained military and with far less weaponry, making history as the first Black independent nation was mind-boggling. If you know any Haitians, this is why we have so much pride! We come from a legacy of fighters. Of people who stood up to tyranny and abuse even in the face of death because they would rather die trying than to see their countrymen shackled and debased.
As a child, when I got all of this information about my name it made me beam with pride. I felt like I carried my ancestors everywhere I went and in a way, it helped to fill me with strength. I would sometimes imagine that perhaps Toussaint or Dessalines were part of my bloodline. Or that they fought with a great-great-great-great-great-great something or other from my family by their side.
I could go on and on, but the point I hope I am making clear is that our names hold so much power and give us so much insight into who we are. I don’t think it is by accident that I have the name that I have, or that you have the name that you do. There’s a reason and purpose. And if you have never explored this or interrogated your family and loved ones to learn more about your name, I believe that you are missing out on information that is vital to you getting a full picture and understanding of the person you were created to be.
As I got older and grew in my spiritual walk, I wanted to explore the biblical meaning of my name. I remember looking it up years ago and finding that Elizabeth translated to “consecrated to God.” That was beautiful and all, but at the age I discovered this meaning, I hadn’t really experienced enough to fully grasp its accuracy or importance in my life. Now however, as an adult, who has walked through various trials and tribulations and who has grown mature in her faith, I can see why God assigned my parents to give me this name. Recently, I let my curiosity and hunger to go deeper with my understanding of God and who He’s called me to be, lead me to explore the meaning in Hebrew as well as Greek.
In an entry I found online, I learned that in Greek Elizabeth means “oath of God,” “God of oathing,” and “God of seven.” Etymologically, the first two letters el, in Greek translate to mean “God” (think of Elohim, or El Shaddai) and the second part, shabba in Greek means either seven or to swear. Some cool tidbits that stood out to me in this entry were the following:
1. There's only one Elizabeth in the Bible: the wife of Zacharias and the mother of John the Baptist. She is mentioned 9 times in the New Testament.
2. Elizabeth is a Levite, like her husband, and the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus (LUKE 1:36). Jesus was the legal son of Joseph (literally: son-by-law), and that makes him legally a man of Judah, as the prophets said he would be (Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2), but since his mother was kin to Elizabeth, a Levite, it stands to reason that his human genes were Levite, and that makes him a Levite by descent. And this is a good thing, or else he wouldn't be allowed to be a priest, let alone a High Priest (HEBREWS 5:5-6)
3. The name Ελισαβετ, Elizabeth, is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name אלישבע, Elisheba, which was the name of the wife of Aaron; the "mother of all priests".
4. (shaba'), has to do with the number seven and the act of binding with an oath (i.e. with a proverbial seven seals or seven bonds).
Reflections on these Tidbits:
1. There was only one Elizabeth which made me feel so much better about my name because even though it is common today, there was only one woman mentioned in the Bible with that name–which communicates to me that she was special, unique, and set apart. The fact that she was the mother of John the Baptist spoke volumes, as for the last 3-4 months or so, I have developed such an affinity to John the Baptist. I feel like out of all the wonderful people, apostles, prophets and such of the bible, my spirit resonates most with him. A huge part is the fact that he was the biblical version of the misunderstood, weirdo hippie (which I love and relate to so much), but also that he was a forerunner. He didn’t care about fame and fortune, he was focused on the job he was born to do and embraced his martyrdom with all heart and soul, never cowering to those who opposed him/ the word of God.
2. I love that Elizabeth serves as a proof point to Jesus Christ’s legitimacy as a Levite, thus leaving no room to question his appointment as High Priest from naysayers.
3. Elisheba means the “mother of all priests,” which makes me hopeful that my son and any future children that I bear will have an important role in the house of the Lord. It also causes me to reflect on my family history–my father, a pastor, followed in the footsteps of his father before him. When I was younger and up to adulthood really, I would always say that I only wanted sons. Maybe I’ll bear a bunch of babies like the grandmother I resemble so much and they will all be pastors. Funny to think about.
4. The fourth point on my name having to do with the number 7 is very significant. First, because throughout my spiritual awakening that began in 2020, God has always used numbers to communicate to me. There are some numbers that I will always seem to come across throughout my day, while driving, when I look at the time, etc. Lately though, the number 7 seems to be following me. Everywhere I look, I seem to always notice it. I have specifically started to see the triple 7 show up everywhere, especially on license plates. The number 7 signifies completeness and perfection–think about the story of creation: on the seventh day, God completed his work and rested. This season of my life has had many endings–relationships, career, and location of my home are just to name a few. But, it's nice to know that the endings are not in vain. God is closing the doors to any and everything that no longer serves me. In many ways, I am being perfected; being refined by fire, pressed, challenged and sifted so that all that remains is His power, presence and perspective. It serves as yet another reminder of God's faithfulness, seeing how His promises are binding. He never breaks an oath. We can indeed trust Him!
There was a final interesting bit about the name being somehow connected to oak and terebinth trees which shocked me as my son’s first name directly correlates with that. Isn't it funny that we think we are making decisions for things in our lives just because we want to, when really God is always in control?
If you've never taken the time to do a deep dive into your name and your family history, I would highly encourage you to do so. There is so much information for us to glean from exploring this area of ourselves, and I bet that you will begin to come across information that helps you to understand yourself more. This can all help you to get more clear on the person God has specifically designed you to be and what you are meant to do in this life. Even if you have done something like this before, I charge you to do it again! Go deeper! You never know what you’ll discover!
Lastly, if you decide to look more into your name, be sure to leave a comment below or let me know on my instagram page! Can’t wait for you to discover more about you!