What’s in a name?

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By MICHAEL J BROOKS | Guest Columnist

It’s interesting to read the top ten baby names for 2021, and to see how different they are from previous years. What happened to Michael, Joshua, Sarah and Elizabeth?

There’s a whole new genre, perhaps inspired by media. I’m not sure since I’ve whittled down TV viewing in recent years. But the top ten female names are (in order) Olivia, Emma, Amelia, Ava, Sophia, Charlotte, Isabella, Mia, Luna and Harper. The top ten male names are Liam, Noah, Oliver, Elijah, Lucas, Levi, Mason, Asher, James and Ethan.

Many families choose to perpetuate generational names. For example, my paternal grandfather’s middle name was Allen, which he gave to my father, who gave it to my older brother, who gave it to his son, who gave it to his son. In fact the last three generations share the name Kenneth Allen Brooks without “senior” or “junior” attached. My great-nephew’s nickname is KAB3.

My middle name is John. I was named for my mother’s brother, John Wesley Petty. We named our son John. Our daughter named her firstborn John Brooks Bennett, so he has my name and his paternal grandfather’s name. Oh, our daughter has the feminine version of Michael, Michelle, as her middle name.

My dad had an unusual name: Orris Allen Brooks. I’ve thought about him lately since Jan. 22 was his birthday. I never got a straight answer from him about where Orris came from, nor did I ever think to ask my grandmother how she chose it. Dad guessed he was named for his Uncle Horace. I’ve never met another Orris, and no one chose to bring this name forward to another generation. My brother’s family chose Allen instead.

I think my brother and I are fortunate that others wanted to use our names in a new generation. I remember a quip from the late Henry Lyon when we brought him back to First Baptist Selma to name our new parking pavilion in his honor. He said, “Wow. I’ve never had anything named for me–not even my son!”

The New Testament book of Acts reveals that the disciples of Jesus didn’t have an official name for a while. They were “followers of the way” at first, perhaps based on Jesus’ claim to be the way, truth and life (Acts 22:4, John 14:6). But, surprisingly, the name “Christian” originated in the first Gentile church, Antioch, and the name stuck (Acts 11:26). It’s believed the name means “little Christ,” and was first spoken in derision. But the name has come to represent something noble.

Christians try to be “little Christs.” We fall far short, but we continue to remind ourselves that he is our example in the whole of life.

Reflections is a weekly devotional feature written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.