What’s in a name?

When I was a kid I have learned the story behind my name. According to my mother, it was my lola (not my biological lola though) who should be held responsible for my name. Just to spare you some precious time guessing what my name is, I’d like to introduce myself – my name’s Martin.

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Mas maiintindihan ko sana kung may malalim na pinaghugutan ang naging pangalan ko – pwede namang kinuha kay Martin Luther King, o kay San Martin de Porres. Ang kaso, kaya ganito ang pangalan ko ay dahil lang sa ipinanganak ako ng Martes. Ayun, ako ngayon si Martin. There was even a joke that I was born in the middle of the night, that’s why I have this not-so-fair complexion.

I could have been named Exequiel should my mother insisted her authority over my lola. However, being the obedient daughter she is, she succumbed to my lola’s whims.

I am Martin Valenzuela, simply because I was born on a Tuesday, Martes.

As a child, I never really liked my name. Given the chance I’d rather be called Mark or John, or any other name, no matter how common, I’d still choose it over my name. To all Martins out there, please don’t get offended. Walang mali sa pangalan natin, kung di lang madalas akong tuksuhin na Tintin Patpatin, o di kaya ay Martiniko. My name just makes it obvious that I grew up thin and sickly. Lampayatot.

In school o kahit sa bahay, kapag tinawag na ako sa buong pangalan ko I easily get uneasy. Lalo na kapag sinamahan na ng apelyido – Mr. MARTIN VALENZUELA let’s talk after class, ok? O kaya, Mr. MARTIN VALENZUELA, please proceed to the principal’s office immediately. Pero eto pa ang matindi – ANAK KA TALAGA NG MAGALING MONG TATAY, MARTIN VALENZUELA! Lalo na kapag may kasama nang gigil. Isa lang ang ibig sabihin niyan!

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Maybe this is one function of our formal names – to get our attention. May gigil o wala, kapag tinawag ka sa buong pangalan mo, you immediately give your full attention to the one who calls you by name.

Every name has its own story. Mine’s a story of, I don’t know what you call that – a whimsical act or a deliberate decision?

Before the disciples of Jesus were called into the ministry, they were just common people. No one take notice of them, except their relatives and friends. They are just like most of us, until they were called in their formal names by no other than Jesus Himself.

Peter, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was called in his formal name, Simon, not just once but many times. And whenever Jesus calls him in such manner, usually they were big moments.

One of these moments was when Jesus was asking His disciples about who do people think He is. Some of his disciples answered, “some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

But when Jesus asked them their personal thoughts about Him, it was Peter who claimed “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

Jesus’ reply is priceless – “Blessed are you, SIMON, BAR-JONAH for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven”. Matthew 16:17

Jesus called Peter in his full, formal name! It was a very personal discourse between them. It’s as if Jesus is telling Peter, or Simon in this context, that He is a personal God. He knows everything about Simon – his family (BAR-JONAH means Son of Jonah), his worries and joys, his sacrifices and desires. He knows Simon very well, and their relationship is not just like a boss-employee, but more of friends. Moreover, he calls Simon as BLESSED! I’m sure that to Simon, who was once a fisherman, to be called by Jesus in his formal name is a defining moment, equipping him to become a full-pledged fisher-of-men.

It doesn’t matter what story your name has. It can be a story of significance or just plain existence in your own realm. Either you have the name that is highly regarded by people or just like me when I was still a kid, you’d rather change your name to something else. But whatever your name is, God has something to tell you:

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name and you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

You are being called by God, in your very formal name to catch your attention. Don’t worry, He knows everything about you and He doesn’t mind whether you messed up big time in the past. Just yield to Him. Take heed to His call. Just like Peter, he calls you to a relationship with Him and to turn the world upside down for Him.

As a grown-up man, no longer will I choose any other name for myself, because in this name I have been called by my God. Natuto rin akong makuntento at magpasalamat.

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Before I met Jesus, I am an insecure Martin, who doesn’t like his very own name. But when I accepted Him as Christ, Lord and Savior, I have my own version of Jesus telling me – “Blessed are you, MARTIN VALENZUELA.”

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

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