Last week,Tamára Lunardo wrote a beautiful piece on knowing God’s name at one of my favorite sites, A Deeper Story. I highly encourage you to read her story.
Names have always been an important part of my identity. For those who have been following this little blog for some time, you know that I am deeply interested in names, hence my many posts on the lead-up to my husband’s and my name decision, as well as The Last Name Project.
My name comes from the Hebrew male name Daniel (דָּנִיֵּאל or Dan‘el), Danbeing Judge and El being the ancient name for God (as in Elohim or El Shaddai). For much of my life, I never felt attached tomy name or that it embodied how I am. Since I never went by a nickname, it’s always been Danielle. It’s not terribly uncommon, but it’s not aname you hear every day, either. Formany years, when I thought of myself and how others knew me as Danielle, itfelt foreign. I thought of my name in avery abstract, detached way. I knew that my name is Danielle, but it felt foreign in the same way as in other languages such as Spanish, you literally say “Others call me ______” to introduce yourself instead of the active construction, “My name is ______.”
I tried to think of other names that resonated more. I thought about how my parents wanted to originally name me Gabrielle, but hated the thought of people calling by Gabby and therefore chose Danielle instead. But Gabrielle seemed even more foreign to me.
Fast forwarding to my junior year of college, I was engaged and underage, experiencing tremendous growth and change, and becoming more secure in my identity as a Christian, woman, future wife, and feminist. In what would become the favorite class I took in college, we were discussing the intersections among faith, violence against women, and international law.
As part of the class, we read Fauziya Kassindja’s harrowing account of her flight from her home country in West Africa to flee gender-based violence in the form of female genital cutting, a common practice in the areafor adolescent girls before being married off to much older men. Rather than receive refugee status in theU.S., she was imprisoned for almost a year and did not receive any legal aidfor her case. After months and months, ayoung lawyer began helping her to gain asylum (and who would later found the Tahirih Justice Center). The part of the book that is seared into my memory is when Fauziya ispleading with the judge to hear her case as she shouts, "God is my Judge! God is my Judge! God is my Judge!"
My breath stopped. Myheart skipped a beat. And then a delugeof tears flooded the book’s pages. I had been thinking about my name wrong all along.
My name did not mean “God is my Judge-r.” It was not some cold, detached, and judgmental God who wagged His finger at every time I missed the mark or failed to live up to the standards of “godly” womanhood and femininity.
My name means “God is my Judge, my Advocate for Justice.” I am named after a God of Justice. The years of working in the anti-trafficking field, the trips to and from the emergency center with peers who had experienced the unspeakable, the fervor and thirst for righteousness and positive peace was not flowing from a Creator who named me in judgment. Again, I am named after a God of Justice. I follow a Savior who lived as an Advocate for the least of these and sent the Spirit to Advocate against the injustices and inhumanities of this broken world.
In Dutch, Vermeer means “from the lake,” which hold aspecial meaning for my Friesian (not Hollander) husband who grew up at a lake and experiences a deep aweof God when near water.
But in Russian, meer (Мир or mir) means something similar to the Jewish shalom, a concept that transcends our un-mystical English words for the same – signifying peace, wholeness,community, and yes, justice.
My name is – and I am– God is My Judge.
It’s a pleasure to meet you.
What is your name – or rather – who areyou?