Most people dismiss the importance of a name, its impact, its influence and the legacy it leaves behind once the person carrying it leaves this life. Ask Jesus…oh, and Judas too!
Many people don’t know the meaning of their birth names, and that’s ok, especially if your name means something like, ‘leaky tap’ or ‘big toe!’ Undoubtedly however, the way we live can add meaning to our names beyond a dictionary definition. We can give a “life-meaning” to our birth name, that travels further down the road of life than we expect!
Crime, Drugs, Violence and Jail
At the ripe young age of 25, I came to understand that crime, drugs, violence and jail were not the life I was sentenced to; they were the lifestyle I was trapped in.
During my early adolescent years, I decided that while crime, drugs, violence and jail weren’t the meaning of my birth name, my choices would make them the meaning of my life-name. Societal labels and institutional definitions have a way of defining both external and internal environments in many of us, and I was no exception. My birth name (Eddie Hypolite) and my life-name became synonymous with crime, drugs, violence and jail.
Life Isn’t Censored
Life isn’t censored; neither is the way people experience us as we do life together. There are no filters that change the way we experience hurt, disappointment, rejection, pain, loss and death. As much as we try to be good people and live peaceably with others, we still hurt people and bring them pain, both intentionally and unintentionally. Despite our attempts to paint the best possible pictures of ourselves, honest reflection doesn’t always go well, with our “mirror-mirror-on-the-wall” moments. Life really isn’t censored!
Truth isn’t censored either! Truth doesn’t know how to be anything else other than truth. The beautiful truth about us as human beings, is our ability to inspire and empower each other towards our best.
We only truly understand ourselves – our capacity for love, forgiveness, joy and hate – when we come into contact with other human beings. Because of this fundamental truth, it is given to us to be able to transform and restore each other in almost every aspect of our lives. It’s God-given, woven into our very DNA; it’s what makes us human and humane. It is our exit door out of despair, our ticket back into the beauty of living whole lives in the community of others.
At a Crossroad
My 25th year was my life crossroad, the place and time I truly faced my life-name and who I had become. In that moment, I did 3 things that changed everything:
- I took an honest look at who I was. Everywhere I’d been and everything I’d become had caught up to me at that moment in time.
- I decided to take on a life-name better than the one I had at that time. Honest introspection empowers freedom to truly choose an alternative.
- I committed my immediate choice and all future choices to living in that new place and season.
That has been the principle from which I’ve lived since then. Whenever I find myself thinking about my need for forgiveness or renewal; whenever I’m trying to repair broken relationships and find my way back into the reality of my new life-name; I take an honest look and embrace what I see. I decide for more in my life and live out the implications of those new choices. (NOTE: As simple and easy as I’m making it sound, there’s nothing easy about it.)
Getting a New Name in South Africa
In 1998 after spending 1 month in South Africa I was given a life-name to go with my new life journey. The name is Manqoba (pronounced Man-no-ba). It means, ‘overcomer’ or ‘he who strives and overcomes’.
New choices, forgiveness and settling of old paths always bring a new life-name, even if your birth name remains the same. It’s that life-name that impacts those around you and affirms that your story and journey are valued and important.
We all strive to overcome one thing or another, thinking that we do so alone. The divine/human reality is we’ve never been left alone. God has tattooed himself into the very skin of humanity.
With each new day He brings new perspective, hope, expectations and life-names to men and women everywhere.
What’s in a name?…everything!
Written by Pr Eddie Hypolite, a Londoner by birth, and the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. Eddie, along with his gorgeous wife, Yvonne, and beautiful daughter, Rhea, began their ministry at Avondale College Church in 2013. He is the author of The Book of Testosteronomy available on Amazon and iTunes.