Monday, May 24, 2010

The Story Behind the Names

As I sit quietly in the hospital room with Jenna and our newborn son, I am reminded of God's faithfulness and miracle-working power. Three years ago when Jenna and I were married, I never dreamed of having 3 sons by age 30; however, the Lord in His soveriegn plan knew exactly what He was doing. For that I am truly thankful.

Our first three years of marriage have been filled with pain, grief, joy and blessing. The Lord has given and taken away. First, He saw fit to take Jenna's Nana (July 07), my Granddaddy (August 07), our first child (February 08), my dad (May 08) and my mom (March 09). It is on days like today in the quietness of a hospital room that I wish they were all here to celebrate with us. I like to imagine Jenna's Nana holding Samuel, mom holding Daniel, and my dad patting me on the shoulder and saying welcome to fatherhood. I can hear the faint echos of what my dad might be saying, "Son, now you will know why I loved you the way I did."

Although I can't audible hear their voices or whispers, I am thankful to have a Heavenly Father who has been with me through the funerals and the births. Life is full of cycles. We are born, grow up, grow out, grow old, and then go the way of all men. It is a blessing to know we can escape this cycle and enjoy eternal life.

Jenna and I have three children. Our first, who we lost through miscarriage, was named Ethan Caleb. We gave him this name because Ethan was a singer and writer in the Bible. First Chronicles 15:19 says, "So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass;" We knew that our first child though never making it outside the womb was fearfully and wondefully made in the image of God. He was taken directly into the presence of the LORD. I can imagine him singing unto the Lord for His mercy and grace. Ethan wrote Psalm 89. In the first verse, he writes, "I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations." God is merciful and faithful to all generations, and Ethan's life reminds us of God's graciousness.

His middle name was Caleb. As you know, Caleb and Joshua were the only two people who came out of Egypt and entered the Promised Land. Caleb had great faith, and the Lord reward Him for it. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

Our second child was going to be named Elijah Thomas. We liked this name, yet during the 8th month of Jenna's pregnancy, my mother passed away of a heart attack at 48 years of age. A few weeks afterward, the Lord began speaking to my heart about our child's name. I kept hearing Daniel. At first, I kept this to myself, because I knew Jenna liked the other name and would have thought I was crazy for wanting to change his name. We already had 3-4 things monogrammed. Yes, the expensive diaper bag was one of them.

When I began researching name meanings, I discovered that Daniel means "My God is Judge." This was so true in our case. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." God is the Judge of all the earth and because of Adam's transgression, every person will someday die. As a young child, you never really think about it, but within two years, Nana, Grandaddy, Ethan, Dad, and Mom had met the just penalty for sin--death. I am glad to report they were all overcomers through the blood of the Lamb. They all had testimonies of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." It also meant a lot to Jenna when she found out her grandparents were going to name their first child Daniel if it were a boy. Her Nana and Pop had two girls, so the name was never used until our Daniel was born.

Daniel's middle name is Benjamin. This is a Johnson family name. My dad's middle name was Benjamin. My granddaddy's first name was Bennie, and my great-great grandfather's first name was Benjamin. When Rachel was dying with Jacob's second son by her (Gen. 35:18), she named her son, Benoni, which means "son of my sorrow or son of my strength." Jacob named him Benjamin which means, "son of the right hand."

Daniel Benjamin is our first son we have been able to hold. Everytime I look into his face and call his name, I hope I am reminded of "My God is Judge" and "Son of my Right Hand." Within his name, I am reminded of God's grace through redemption. All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We all stand before a Righteous Judge without one plea, yet God sent His Son Jesus from His right hand to die for the sins of man. In Jesus, God righteousness stands, His justice is satisfied, and sinful people like Nana, Granddaddy, Ethan, Dad, and Mom can by faith be pardoned and justified in God's presence (Romans 3:26). This Jesus is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

After Daniel was born, we were consumed with taking care of him. We actually couldn't believe we had a child. He was born 6 weeks after my mom passed away, and his presence helped heal my heart from the grief and pain of losing my parents. There were still days of grief and disappointment, but his sweet face brightened our home. The Lord used Daniel to heal Jenna's heart as well. After our first miscarriage, we never knew if we would have any children. We were both concerned and heartbroken. She took it much harder than I did, and for four months after losing Ethan, she was devastated. After researching online, she found a book called Hannah's Hope. It dealt with problems of infertility, miscarriage, and the loss of children. The book worked wonders on Jenna's heart, and it helped allow some light to poke through the dark clouds which surrounded her.

Four months after Daniel's birth, I had a sense that we might be ready for another child. I joked with Jenna as Daniel was crying about having another child. In some ways, I have learned that kidding each other about having children is not always the best. There are many who would love to have children. Those who never have any problems getting pregnant do not really understand the full blessings of having children. Some choose to not have children. Some couples graciously adopt and provide a wonderful picture of God's unconditional love.Others get pregnant easily, wait 9 months, and deliver like it is a breeze. My heart has grown more sensitive through our process of loss and birth, and I will continue to learn more as our children grow. I do want to remind you of how fragile life is. God is ultimately the Giver and Sustainer of life.

Throughout this pregnancy, we have been reminded of Hannah's hope. We could have never imagined having two living sons now. Two years ago, I wondered about the options we had in raising a family. There are many children who get neglected, are in orphan's homes, and are in need of adoption. Like Hannah, we prayed and the Lord answered. During this pregnancy, Jenna was in the hosptital 5 times (one stay lasted 7 days), on bedrest 17 days, and in a wreck which totaled our car. There were so many prayers lifted up for this child. Hannah in First Samuel 1:27 said, "For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:" God heard so many of our prayers for protection, peace, and provision. Samuel means "heard or asked of God or God's hears." We are thankful we serve a God who hears and answers prayers!

Samuel's middle name is Levi. Of course, you know this was the third child of Jacob, and we consider Samuel our third child. Levi's family was also the people God chose to be in charge of His worship. It was the Levites who were in charge of taking care of the tabernacle. Within this tribe, God chose Aaron and His family to be the priests. The Levites were not given any land when the Promised Land was divided, because God was their portion. Levi means "united or joined." Daniel and Samuel are very close in age, and we pray they both will grow up close to each other, close to us, and most importantly to God.

For those who may have wondered, these are the stories behind our son's names. Parenting is an incredbile responsibility. As a dad, it is my job to reflect the glory of our heavenly Father to our family, and the love and intimacy of Jesus Christ to my wife. May God bless you and your families as you are witnesses of His goodness and grace. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them(Psalms 127:3-5a)!

A Humbled Dad,

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