When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 and I was 33, there was no estate to divide, no money to deposit, no silver to share. After she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but because there were questions I would never have answers to.
For instance, where did my name come from?
When my mother passed, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. The older I got, identity and history became more and more important. I had never heard the background, the whys or whos of my name. There was no connection to the past, no legacy left via family, and I didn’t like that because names matter. It never occurred to me to ask my mother about my name while she was alive. (My birth father was not in the picture–he left us when I was 5 and now it was too late.)
My mother was Helen Elizabeth–I got neither name. I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? I had been called that all the years I can remember. (Of course when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!” )
The question, Who was I named after? kept coming back to me. So imagine my joy when several years after my mother died, I read my name in the passage recalling Jesus’ resurrection story. And each year when Easter comes around, the Holy Spirit reminds me, “You were named on purpose, I saw you from the beginning.”
Luke Chapter 8 records this:
“1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God:
and the twelve were with him,
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward,
and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”
Joanna was a believer in Herod’s palace? In the middle of all those unbelievers?
She is mentioned again on the first Easter morning in Luke Chapter 24:
“8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven,
and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James,
and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.”
Joanna was one of the first 3 women to see Jesus alive after the Resurrection?! Wow.
Reading these words, God spoke to me clearly that HE knew me before I was born, He planned my birth and my name, even if my parents didn’t know Him at the time.
It turns out my mother left me with so much more than ‘just’ my name, she gave me a legacy that was spoken before I was born. A forthtelling of who I would be–the best of names–a Christian, ‘little Christ’–even if it took me 19 years to welcome that identity.
The fact of Easter is true~there is a resurrection and we have a Redeemer who buys back all our wandering years. He knows us before we are born and names us on purpose. We are in God’s story, written before time began.
This is an edited post from 2013