Abram's name meant "exalted father." He did pretty well with the exalted part (had a knack for getting rich and for the most part, enjoyed a good reputation), but the father bit...it just wasn't happening. If Abram were to introduce himself to us, it might have sounded something like this:
Hello, my name is Abram, and I grew up with a father who didn't follow through on what he said he would do. Genesis 11:31-32. His father set out for Canaan but settled in Haran, which was about halfway there.
Hello, my name is Abram, and though I have a lot of potential, I find it hard to leave everything behind and pursue the call of God. Genesis 12:1-6. He left his home, but not his family behind, taking his nephew with him.
Hello, my name is Abram, and I sometimes exercise bad judgment in order to make my life easier and better for myself. Genesis 12:10-17. He lied about his wife in order to gain favour with influential people.
Hello, my name is Abram, and I have some family troubles and quarrels going on. Genesis 13:5-9 and 14:14-16. There was some fighting, some going of separate ways, some capturing, and some attacking and plundering.
Hello, my name is Abram, and I am disappointed at the way some things have turned out in my life - at God's lack of action, to be honest. Genesis 15:1-3. He had a lot of riches but no heir, even though God had promised him one many times.
Hello, my name is Abram, and I sometimes choose compromise over waiting for God. It seems better than being known as a man of inaction, a man who does not follow through. Genesis 16:3-6. He agreed to his wife's plan of getting the servant girl pregnant, which resulted in a lot more family trouble.
And then, something crazy happened. God changed Abram's name (Genesis 17:3-8). God added the letter "heh" near the end of his name. The letter stems from a root that means, "to breathe." Say it (heh) and you hear the sound of a breath being exhaled. The interesting thing is that God's name has two of these letters in it (YHWH). It was like God was breathing some of himself, his life, his spirit into Abram (see Genesis 2:7 where God breathes into humanity for the first time). He did the same with Sarai, Abram's wife, and added the breath of "heh" to the end of her name as well.
No longer would the childless man hear the embarrassing contradiction of his name, "exalted father," when people addressed him as Abram. Now, every time someone called him Abraham, he could hear the breath of God breathing into who he was, making it possible for him to be what God had called him to be.
The name I was given at birth was Martha Helen. I was never particularly fond of the name (doesn't it sound like someone's old aunt, or the queen's second cousin?), but when I think about what it means, I am challenged to live up to its grand calling. Martha means "lady" and Helen means "light." Therefore, I am called Lady Light. Cool, isn't it?
The name I have gone by since college days is Matte. There were an overabundance of Martha's in my family circle at the time, so I came up with the unique derivative. It just seemed to suit me better than Martha, but after a few years, I wondered if I should go back to the name, Martha. Was I somehow losing some of the richness associated with my given name by not using it? When I asked God about it, I was reminded if an image of a framed picture, like the one at the top of this blog. The paper between the frame and the photo is called a mat. It is what draws the eye to the picture and shows off its beauty. And that is indeed what I want to do: draw people's eyes to the beauty, the mystery, and the wonder of who God is and what masterpiece he is creating.
Hello, my name is Matte, and I point to God.
The above is based on a talk I gave last night at our church gathering.
The framed version of my photo is available at www.redbubble.com/people/mattedowney