What’s in a Name?


“…our names are part of our wholeness. To be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love.” – Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

My name is Melissa, that honey-bee moniker laid upon me on the day of my birth. Over the 36 years of my life, though, I have been gifted with other names. As a child, my family and friends called me “Missy”. In high school, my friends fell to calling me by my last (maiden) name, for reasons that I have hitherto forgotten. When I entered college, the friends I met there named me “Mel” out of amusement for my last name: Gibson, and that particular name has stuck over the subsequent decade and a half. Almost everyone calls me “Mel” now.

While that is my most frequently-used nickname, it is still precious to me because those who utter it love me, and I know it, what’s more. It is an intimacy, an outward expression of their love and care for me. There is a vast difference between those who call me “Mel” and those who call me “Melissa”.

There are more names with which I have been gifted that are precious to me. My best girl friends call me “wifey”, as we are close and beloved of each other, having been friends for a decade or longer. We are also also wives and mothers of small children who support and love on each other and each other’s children. We belong to each other.

A particular dear friend, Erin, calls me her “Sam” after Samwise Gamgee in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which I count amongst my highest honors. I call her my Bosslady, stemming all the way back to college and her sweet, loving, faithful mentoring those almost-twenty years ago.

My husband calls me “Issya”, a derivative of my name that only we two know the origin of. That name ushers from no one’s lips but his, making it infinitely precious. He also calls me “Helpmeet”, as we are partners in this life together.

When our daughter was first learning to talk, she dubbed me “Mumum”, which made me so happy to hear it babbled from her chubby, smiling face. Even now, when she says “Mama” instead of the more-usual “Mommy”, I am thrown back to her earlier years all over again.

These names, these gifts, represent intentional acts of relationship by dear ones–especially in this, my second act of life. They are an almost tangible way of knowing that I am welcome in their lives and loved by them.

“What’s in a name?” I believe that a truly given name (or nickname)  has an intimacy wrapped up in, an acknowledgement, a place, and a whisper of love. Thank you, dear ones, for my names. Thank you for how you love me.

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