Hallowed Be Thy Name
Lately I’ve been thinking about names. As I introduce characters into my new novel, I am reminded of the importance of their names. The reality is, we all have more than one name. When great-grandson Riley was born, as a family we spent time discussing what would be my name. I have been Grandma for years, a name that speaks to me about love, but he has other grandmothers. We finally settled on GG for great-grandma. What a yummy name. It says that I have been blessed with wonderful grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren to shower with love. To my friends, I’m known as Jan or the more formal Janet. To my children I’m “Mom.”
There are lots of names for God, like Creator, Sustainer, Father, Mother, Parent, Jesus, Holy Spirit and many more. As Christians, we understand God in three main ways, as Holy Spirit who dwells within us, as Jesus who walks beside us, as God who surrounds us. Regardless of the name, we are talking about God. That’s difficult because tradition and limited human understanding has sort of split God into three persons, and then told us that those three are still one.
I’ve used water, ice and steam to help me understand, three in one, for they are all water. Each is a different form of the same thing, but ice and steam do not feel very welcoming. As well, I’ve used an apple as an illustration of three in one. The flesh, the seed, and the skin surrounding it all for me illustrate our three understandings of God very well. Many books have been written and wars fought over this concept of three in one.
As Christians we usually choose the name for God that helps us to experience God’s presence. I guess that is what I do when I choose names for my characters. With my first novel, I chose Reneé as the name for my main character because in the information about names, Reneé means “born again”. The title of that first novel is “Fireweed: Finding Hope in the Ashes of Tragedy.” As the story progresses, Reneé matures from a young teen in a carefree life in a family of three, to a young woman living in a renewed family of two, with her dad. Her understanding of herself and her world is really born again. And so her name fits.
Whatever name you choose for God, remember it speaks to your understanding of God, not everyone else’s. Remember also that God doesn’t care what name you use, as long as it is a name of respect and love. Jesus’ prayer says, “Hallowed be thy name.” which just means that the name of God is holy, to be spoken with reverence and love.
In the Koran there is a whole chapter devoted to listing the names for God, Allah, just names, no narrative, no story. I love the traditional Islami story of the four blind men describing an elephant. One, touching the flank, believed an elephant was like a wall. One, touching the trunk, believed an elephant was like a snake. One touching a tusk believed an elephant was like a long tapering cylinder. Each was sure, he was right. Maybe we Christians need to remember that we understand God through our own perception – what we have heard from others and what we have experienced ourselves.
I’d love to hear what you think. Please click on the “comment” and
tell me your favourite name for God and your reason for choosing it.