Respirit – Week 7 “What’s in a name?” ~By Catherine Lewallen

Murphys, CA…I have always had an interest in names and their meanings. I remember dreaming about what I would name my future children when I was but a child myself. I have come to learn as an adult, that names in the Bible are full of meaning and, often, part of God’s message is within the name itself.

The name I chose for my own child changed throughout my pregnancy. I went against the modern trend, and chose to be surprised by his gender at his birth, which meant I had to have at least 2 names picked out. The middle name was easy, because I wanted my child to carry on his respective parent’s middle name. The first name changed during my pregnancy because I decided it no longer “fit.” I was getting to know my child already, and those names were definitely not right. I needed to change the very formal names I had pre-selected into something much sweeter and gentler. After looking through baby name books unsuccessfully, I searched the Bible. And there it was. Jonah. It is Hebrew for “peaceful, dove.” Sure enough, my boy is exactly that.

I have mixed feelings about my name. Both “Catherine” and my middle name, “Elizabeth,” are family names. They are certainly long enough! With an 8-letter last name, my driver’s license requires 2 lines for it all to fit! Also, I do not use a nickname. My mother would definitely not allow that, but most people agree I am just not a “Cathy.”

I was always proud that I was named for our English heritage, and both names were queens. I definitely thought that gave me some (imaginary) prestige. But the meanings, I thought, were dull and even embarrassing. Catherine means pure, and Elizabeth means lamb. I remember once, at a fair or something, a “fortune teller” claimed to be able to tell your future based on your name. I was told I would be the first woman President, while my best friend was told she was going to be a movie star. Boy, did I feel ripped off.

Now, much later in life, the greatest compliment ever would be to be considered a “pure lamb.” In fact, I go to great lengths to shed any former character traits that contradict such a claim. I wish purity had been my highest aspiration as a young person. As God has entered my life, and enveloped my heart, I try to create a woman worthy of great blessings. I think perhaps at times people wonder, “What about all that stuff you used to do?” Therein lies the beauty of redemption by Jesus Christ.

I do not mean He allows “freebies.” Every mistake needs what I consider the 3 R’s: 1. to be Remembered, 2. Rectified when possible, and 3. Repentance. There is a song I love that in one verse describes a murderer sitting in prison who has opened his eyes and heart to God. He is admitting to Him what he has done and is asking for forgiveness and also to be able to come home to heaven. In the song, God begins His answer with, “Now that you’re listening…” and assures the murderer that His heart has been breaking watching him suffer so long, and that He has been loving him all along. This is such a perfect image of the God I believe in. I am so ashamed and disappointed of the times when He was providing for me – giving me chance after chance, providing me with every opportunity for greatness – and I wasn’t listening.

Becoming the woman I want to be, required a radical commitment. In fact, I truly believe that being a Christian requires radical commitment, despite what most people are willing to give. I find that most people want to attend church maybe if it fits into their schedule; they want to maintain their habits or addictions; they are unwilling to give up their earthly desires. This is nowhere near what the Bible says. We often admonish members of cults for their full (although blind) commitment. But perhaps, that is their only great or worthy characteristic. Whole-heartedly following Jesus is what He wants. He commands us to give Him all glory, love Him above all else, and trust in Him at all times. I don’t read anything into that about taking breaks.

So part of becoming that “pure lamb” is behaving like one! Part of becoming a Christian is behaving like one! Not sometimes, but all the time. Being human, I mess up. Therein lies God’s grace, but the 3 R’s are the path to His mercy. I think that’s where non-believers’ problem with Christianity often lies – hypocrisy. (Sinning 6 days of the week and asking for forgiveness on the 7th.) That is not my 3 R’s though, because if you continue to make the mistake over and over, are you really sorry? If you repent, you are promising to turn in another direction.

Once you turn in another direction, a whole new set of opportunities opens up to you. Just like turning down a different street leads to new avenues. If things are not working out for you, turn in another direction. I’ve actually, with my son’s help, made lists of how we want our life to be. We are very specific. It’s fascinating, because when we look at these lists we often say, “Oh! That’s the exact opposite of how we did it before!” Not surprising that we did not end up with our desired result. So, with a radical commitment to God, we have no doubt that we will end up with exactly what we need in life… because it will be exactly what God wants for us.

Editors Note…Catherine’s fight with cancer and the manner in which she has fought it publicly has been an inspiration to many. If you would like some context and a more personal look at her battle you can find it on the Caring Bridge Website Here! We would like to welcome Catherine as one of our contributors and we hope her story can help you along your journey in life.