What is in a name?


Summer Lisa

This is another post from an older blog I kept as Summer and I prepared to adopt our daughter, Sophie. (Originally published May 9, 2006)

I remember studying Martin Heidegger in my Duke days, I found his work to be the literary equivalent to “Lead Ambien.” “Lead” because it was dense reading, “Ambien” because it was guaranteed to put you to sleep. Still, I enjoyed Heidegger, as much as anyone can say they “enjoy” German Existentialists! Still, I found myself disagreeing with a great deal of his thought. The main thing was, and I admit that this is a bit of a charactiture of his thought, he argued that the universe’s only significant relationship was “I-It.” (Martin Buber forgive me!) Basically, the only thing that should matter in any relationship to a person was themself (“I”). Everything, and everyone, else was to be considered an “it.” The problem is that this “I-It” relationship does not recognize the value of the other as a person. An example of this kind of “I-It” thinking is that scene in The Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill (or was it Buffalo Bob, no that was the “Howdy Doody Show”) says to his victim, some fictious Senator’s daughter, “it puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose.”
Now what does any of this have to do with adoption? Well, for me my child gains more humanity when he or she moves from an “it” to a name. In other words, I am not satisfied with “baby boy” or “baby girl.” I need a name! If words are the handles with which we grab thoughts then I need a name to allow me to fully embrace my child. Thinking about baby names is more than a sentimental activity to pass the time before a referral. A name equals existence. A name claims space both in my heart and in my head.
What names are you considering you may ask (you may not, but then you should probably quit reading)? Well, if it is a boy “Caleb Benjamin Henson.” The last name is a given…call us traditional. Caleb is one of the 12 spies who scouted Canaan for Moses. Upon returning, every one of the spies talks about how wonderful the promised land is. Yet, ten of the spies say that the inhabitants of the new land are powerful…in other words, “it would be a great place to live, too bad we can’t have it.” However, two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, say that the land is wonderful and thought its inhabitants are powerful we can still take it because God is with us! Caleb is Hebrew for “Faithful.” Caleb is a strong name…it is both fearless and faithful. Benjamin was one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The name is Hebrew for “Son of my right hand.” Son of my right hand…a Son who is favored…”of my right hand” being a sign of favor. There is also this wicked cool passage in Genesis 49:27 that says how the figure of a wolf was on the tribal standard of Benjamin: “Benjamin is a wolf that raveneth; in the morning he shall devour the prey, at evening he shall divide the spoil.” OK, so what if the baby is a girl? It would be cruel to name a girl Caleb Benjamin (Johnny Cash is going to sue me)! I agree. If the baby is a girl then the name will be “Sophie Ruth Henson.” Again, Henson…I got in to that earlier. Sophia is the word for Wisdom in the Greek New Testament, but Sophie sounds less like one of the Golden Girls! Ruth is Hebrew for “friend” or “companion.” Ruth was adopted into the nation of Israel by Namoi. Though adopted, she is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. A powerful witness to how God defines family. (The pic is just to amuse myself and irritate Summer!)