what’s in a name

What does your name mean?

I got into a conversation with a woman the other day because her son and I shared the same name, except he was Brice with a “y”. I’m the more rare kind. We were talking about how the name Brice/Bryce isn’t that common of a name. In fact, she had wanted to name her son “Ethan” but this didn’t sit too well with the boy’s father, and they couldn’t agree on a name. So one day, while she was still pregnant, the woman and her husband were driving along and stopped at a hole-in-the-wall dive in a small town. As he was using the restroom, the father looked up to see the usual scrawled graffiti on the stalls of public restrooms, but the name of one of these artists caught his eye: “Bryce”. And he loved the name. He told his wife, she liked it, and they decided to give their son that name. Now the whole time she was sharing this story, the little boy just sat behind her, playing with a small toy, listening to the story he undoubtedly had heard dozens of times before. As the mother finished the history of the boy’s name, little Bryce looked up at me with big eyes and asked me the sincerest question I have every been asked:

“Did you get your name from a bathroom too?”

Kids say the darndest things.

My mom actually got my name from “Mr. Belvedere”, a television show from the late 80s/early 90s. It was the name of the little boy on the show, and my mom decided she liked the name. It was either that or Chris…. or Charlie. Thankfully God providentially ruled out Charlie.

My name throws people off sometimes. When people hear “Brice Johnson”, I’m not necessarily the first person they expect to see. Or the second through sixteenth for that matter. You know, that whole being Indian thing. “Sorry, I’m looking for Brice Johnson.” I had people in my classes growing up that asked me what my “real” (Indian) name was.

My freshman year at the University of Texas, I was sitting in class as the professor was calling roll the first day of my Freshman Seminar course. After he finished his list, the elderly professor asked if there was anyone in the class whose name was not called, and another student and I both raised our hands. He peered at us, looked down at his roll sheet, looked up at me and asked, “You must be Vikram.”

Of course I would be Vikram.

Names are powerful things! They carry identity, history, and to an extent, worth. You can be in a large crowded room, but your ears will always catch even the faintest use of your name. You perk up, look around, and immediately tune in to where your name was used. It’s the reason why parents agonize over what to name their children. Unless of course you find a catchy one on a restroom stall.

I looked up the meaning of my name and found out that “Brice” means “speckled”. How appropriate. Indeed, that is how I often view myself, as someone speckled, freckled with huge spots of brokenness. I try and attempt to give off the impression that I’ve got it together, that I’m good, that I’m worthy of some unknowable merit. But I am plagued with depravity, sin and broken relationships. I feel the deep crevices of my brokenness. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I try to clothe myself with the scant coverings of shame, of promises to be better. But speckles don’t disappear too quickly. I am Brice, the speckled one.

But I found that “Brice” also has another meaning: “son of a nobleman.” How fitting! Its a gladdening reminder that I’m not just some spotted stranger struggling to enter into grace, but that grace has adopted me into a Royal Family, making me a son of the true Nobleman: the King of kings. My acceptance in this family has ensured me eternal life in the Kingdom with no end. I am loved and cherished and have value, not because I’ve managed to cover my sin speckled self, but because I am in a new family, because the Father has called me His own. It’s a bit of redemption. I am Brice, son of a Nobleman.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power, and Thine alone,
Can change the leopard spots
And melt the heart of stone.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!

Of course there isn’t mystical power in your name. Your name isn’t a fortune cookie for the outcome of your life. But maybe it can be a reminder that you have worth, that you are more than just the problems and issues piling on you. That you are more than your broken past.

Characters in the Bible recognized the significance of names. For them, it really did carry identity. The Angel of the Lord changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” after the memorable wrestle in the night. Saul of Damascus began going by the name “Paul.” And when the angel announced the magnificent news to the virgin Mary, she was commanded to name her son with a name that means “Yahweh saves.”

And if you’re a Christian, this is the Name you live under, the Name above all names. The Name by which we find our true identity. The Name that takes our botched, ruined selves, and calls us heirs in the Kingdom of God. The Name that redeems our brokenness.

The Name of Jesus.

— The Speckled Son of the Nobleman

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2 thoughts on “what’s in a name

  1. Brice I have to say this was a great blog. Wow. I really admired how you presented it and pointed to our Savior thank you brother. My name is not as cool as yours but it is all good. It is still my name. Just Kevin.

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