Family Lessons 82: A New Name

My 8x great-grandfather, Thomas Dilworth of Chipping (1660-1726), was a lusty Quaker, and sired 18 children. Helpfully, he employed the services of three wives for this endeavour, the first two, presumably, becoming worn out. I have previously remarked on ancestors’ unwillingness to employ their imaginations when naming children, though I have identified exceptions. Grandfather Thomas was not only unimaginative, but he gave new children the names of previous ones that had already died. So of his eighteen, he had two Jameses, three Anns, two Lydias, and two Sarahs. Quite what Sarah II thought of being a replacement for Sarah I, or what James II thought about the prospect of a James III upon his death, we cannot tell. I might have expected so energetic a Quaker to have turned to scripture and found some additions to his limited stock of baby names, but alas, he stuck to what he knew and that which had served every generation well enough in the past.

Someone recently emailed me expressing their dissatisfaction with their name. Mine is hardly inspiring; my mother's first preference was Luke, but, rhyming with puke, she was persuaded to opt for the safer Alan. Luke would have been more fashionable, but a less fashionable name better suits an unfashionable man. Spoke the Lord through Isaiah the prophet:

For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God. (Chapter 62)

Names do get changed in scripture: Saul-Paul, Abram-Abraham and Jacob-Israel being the most notable. Yet any fool can change a name, and conmen frequently employ multiple aliases. When God changes a name, however, it is because He has altered the status of the one named. He does not merely adjust their outward expression or appearance, or touches them up with a brush of rouge and a stroke of eye-shadow, but alters their character, their nature and their standing. Grandfather Dilworth was rather limited in his choice of children’s names but the great God, in whom I hope he trusted, changes our hearts, our destinations, our purposes- and the words by which we are known.

“My name is now Christian, but my name used to be Graceless.”
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress