With entering a new season of our lives (literally and figuratively), it seems old friends and family are crossing our paths more, especially with the holidays coming around. To many, reunions are no big deal. I mean, who doesn’t like catching up over the holidays or running into acquaintances you haven’t seen in YEARS?? But to me… as a wife & mom who CHANGED HER NAME when she was single & childless… weeeeeeell, it presents its awkward moments sometimes.
That’s right. I legally changed my name via the courts in the late winter/early spring of 2006.
Now, if there was a hidden reason why I needed to change my name, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be blogging about it 😉 And no, I wasn’t rebelling against my parents or having a “Black Pride” moment in my 20s to get back to my roots (although, at one point in my life, that idea DID exist). My decision basically came from years of feeling “lost” – not knowing really who or whose I was then finding Christ. Thing is, now that my kids are conversationally aware, this decision is becoming more of a recent conversation.
Although “churched” and knowing I had an Abba/Heavenly Father, I never fully comprehended what that REALLY meant as a daughter (Galatians 4:6-7). After years of what felt like darkness through SIN (bulimic behaviors, depression, suicide attempts, promiscuity, drinking, weed, partying and one God-hating, hellish relationship), God became ever so clear and real to me and my BUT GOD story began one night in December of 2005 (thanks to a praying family, my then best friend, his mom and some amazing, praying friends).
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“ Ephesians 2:1-5
That night, the light came on and in. Church rhetoric was exchanged for the gift of Christ. I went through months of Bible-based counseling and thrust myself into just reading and memorizing Scriptures (I was a wreck). It was one night, after studying about names in the Bible then reaching a frustrating point of not being able to find the origin and meaning of Sheria ANYWHERE (at least by 2006), I was done. I soaked my pillow ALL up and cried out to God, “If You are really real – if Your Word is true when it says You’re Abba… call me by name!”
Have you ever had one of those cries? Where you DEMAND God to respond or else? Well, I didn’t really have an “or else”, but I WAS demanding Him to do what I asked. I’m not sure that was the most “Christian” thing to do 🙂 Thankfully, Psalms 120:1 came to life: “In my distress I cried to the Lord, And He heard me.” In a week or so, God showed me the origin of my name (“Sheria = derivative of Sharia = Islamic law of death” whaaaa…) and then called me by name as His daughter (“Esther”… in a dream plus RANDOMLY said by two unassociated people. Whaaaa…).
Crazy, right? Or… just MAYBE God
It was decided then as it all began to make sense – why Death seemed to be my secret best friend calling me in the shadows of my mind in so many ways. You couldn’t talk me out of or question my decision. My parents were not mad or belittling of my decision but fully supportive. I wasn’t mad at them either; they didn’t even know where my name originated from. One wouldn’t have time to hunt for baby names when you’ve been told and planned to have a boy then, “Oops; it’s a girl!” Now, am I still their little Sheria? Always. But they know I’m growing as Esther. If there’s one thing I know without a doubt: I’m without regret and so grateful for the support of my family and friends back then who prayed for & with me (even came with me downtown!). It meant a lot then and still means a lot now.
Now, 10 years later, I’m a mother who’s still a daughter, niece and cousin. The decision is still fresh like a favorite quote or even chapter in a book I never get tired of sharing. Yes, it’s awkward at times. There have definitely been moments when people I’ve known in the past or family see me face-to-face and I sense their minds saying, “Do I call her what I originally knew her by or this name on facebook she goes by?”
It is awkward too when my sons hear family & friends call me by my old name and not Esther (of which they know not to call me by unless there’s an emergency situation lol). However, it is a part of my story that points to Jesus my Savior. As weird and confusing as it may be to explain and discuss this chapter of my life with them and why some people say this name and others don’t, my sons know who and WHOSE I am. They know Jesus set me free and God calls me His. And that, in turn, THEIR names are so important because mommy and daddy prayed for them and asked God to call THEM by name before they were born.
I’m reminded literally of Hadassah a.k.a. Esther in the Bible. If she changed her name or why she changed it has, in some circles, been debated. But to Mordecai and then her husband/king, the debate was of little importance. To her cousin Mordecai, she was Hadassah. To her husband, Esther. What was of greater importance than who called her what was her faith and trust in the One who called her HIS. I desire the same to be spoken of my life before my sons. Regardless of what my name was & when, I want them to know mommy trusted in the one who called her HIS.
So family and friends, yes… my name WAS Sheria and now it is Esther. My husband calls me that and so will my kids if you ask them; it’s all they know. It’s on my license, my will and all of my bills (want a couple??). It’s the name everyone I’ve met since 2006 calls me by because it’s the name by which I introduce myself. It’s the name my in-laws know me by, what will be on the lips of my grandbabies and engraved on my tombstone.
Does this mean I’ve forsaken my past? PUHLEASE NO! I can’t be where I am without coming from where I’ve been. I have great memories as Sheria, friends with funny stories and too many laughs to count. I know changing my name may seem weird to some of you & you may even take offense, but please don’t. If you say Sheria, I UNDERSTAND because many of you wiped my butt, braided my hair, committed unknowingly illegal yet fun crimes with me in middle school and came to my aid when I was in dire need. We’ve got some serious history! Some of it is dark, yes but now light shines brighter. I’m thankful even to those who have known me forever and have adjusted to calling me Esther (I know you’re trying!) Just know and respect that Esther is much more than just a name to me because it speaks of something… rather… someOne who saved me from so much so many years ago. Jesus – saved me for such a time as this to maybe tell such a person as you that Jesus Christ is a redeemer and there is a Father who knows you by name and is waiting to receive you.
You most likely won’t change your name like I did, but I promise you this… when you DO decide to listen and hear Him call your name, your life will never be the same. And THAT will be a story you’ll always want your kids to ask you about.