so, that name thing again

16 01 2016

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Sometimes, the fact that I am a philosopher and thinker can keep my thoughts so busy.  There is a bit of a rant here, a dilemma I am dealing with.  If there are any answers from people, I would love them! 


A name is something that is so deeply PERSONal.  It is who we are.  I love thinking that while my being was developing inside my mother, Mommy and Daddy were talking about what my identity would be. 

I imagine some of the conversations with these discussions:  Maternal grandparents are Swedish, with particular ways of saying sounds.  So it must be something they are comfortable with.  We live in South Africa, with such a range of people, and there are strong divisions between English and Afrikaans, but still we want a name that makes sense to all of them.  Names have meaning.  Then, both teachers, rule out all the names of the crazy kids whose names bring to mind unpleasant memories…

Dad and Mom decided on Karen.  A name popular in the sixties, I read.  From Danish heritage.  I love that.  My name comes from Scandinavia, where God has brought us again.  Not quite the Swedish spelling, but said in the same way as in Sweden. 

It is a strong sounding name.  Not fancy.  There are no decent sounding shortened versions.  Simple.  We had several Karens and Karins in my classes at school growing up, all with the same Germanic- European way of saying the name – Karen.  I liked that I was not the only one, that I was like others, and that we sometimes made it fun by all answering at once when teachers called us. 

The meaning of my name is something I cherish deeply.  The name means “pure”.  Nothing fancier than that.  But there is SO MUCH to that meaning.  Pure in heart.  Pure in intention. No dirt mixed in.

So, this is me.  I have a face that is perfect for radio, a reason I do not often take selfies.    A little bit flustered, loving a chance to smile, pure me. 

Karen Wanale   

A name is identity, and it is something that I have spent several hours thinking about, teaching about.      It is something that I have tried to learn as quickly as possible when working with a new group of people, because it is one of the surest ways to show real connection with a person. 

What I am dealing with right now, is that people here in Sweden so often call me British or American versions of my name, or other pronunciations that are not ME.  I have tried to correct the kids, and adults… and it goes back to ‘Keren’ or ‘Carryn’ very soon. 

It is great to come home to Deon, who calls me ‘my girl’, or Karen.  I especially love it when my Daddy speaks my name.  He has a particular pronunciation, with a bit of the emphasis on an e sound.  It is personal,  his special connection with me. 

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This is a conundrum for me and has my mind playing. 

One area of thought is the bluntness with which God’s name is tossed around in the world these days.  The Bible is full of verses which speak of the value of each one’s name, but especially of the sanctity of the name of Jesus.  The holiness of God, Elohim and His name.  How many times a day do we here people tossing about these names, as if they do not carry the weight of all authority in the world?  

*Oh my god* still jolts at my heart, and I correct the children often:  is that MY God, or yours you so easily mention?  Does He mean something to you too? 

Then, another direction of thought is with identity.  I identify myself as an African, with Swedish heritage.  When my name is said as if I am American or British, does that change who I am?  There is so much that we have had to change coming to Sweden- the ways are just SO different.  having to give up my name, when it IS Swedish seems an odd thing to have to sacrifice. 

But then, so much of my meditation now is also given to Jesus.  Who gave up EVERYTHING He was, all that He had, to come live as a stranger and foreigner among people so that He could save them.  He gave up the name of Son, King and LORD.  To become ‘raving mad’ (John 10:20) ,Servant, and Son of Man.   Is a name that important to hold on to? 

And then,  the enemy loves to keep our minds busy with lesser things, so that we do not focus on the MAIN things we are called to.  He loves to keep us busy with self.  It is something that so burdens me, because when there is so much focus on self we cannot live with the real calling we all have, to go beyond self, to others.  To LOVE .  To SERVE.  To BE His, and not the self. 


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It  thrills me to know that God has a new name waiting for me.  To know He calls me by name, as His word promises, is a deep blessing to my soul.   Or, as some other friends have done, should I change my name entirely for Sweden?  My Zulu name, Thandiwe, is even more difficult to pronounce in Sweden!  But the meaning of that name is so precious to me too – she who is loved. A Zulu name would really confuse people! 

What I have been trying to focus on is JESUS.  Songs about His name, the power of His name, the value of what His name offers us flow through me at various times of the day.  In the age of focus on rights, He has reminded me of this:  The Bible speaks of no rights we have at all.  We give up all our rights, if we are to be like Jesus (Phil 2:4-8) to receive the ONLY right mentioned in the Bible.  But what a right of identity THAT is!  John 1: 12 – I can be called God’s CHILD!  (It may be a bit confusing to use that name, along with all God’s other children around here though!) 

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It would encourage me to hear any insights you have.  Or to share stories around names, what they mean, and how your name has been a tool to change a life, perhaps? 




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