Joy is my middle name!

Four years ago Mike and I went on an amazing adventure – we canoed for 163km down the Zambezi river wild camping for six nights on the banks and encountering an array of amazing animals who depend on the river during the dry season. Having gone all the way to Zambia we felt it would be daft to not then spend a few days at Victoria Falls and somehow ended up on a raft under the falls tackling grade 5 rapids under the helmsmanship of Captain Potato. Yes – that was his name Potato… His parents had looked at the shape of his head when he was born and called him Potato.

When we were deciding on names for our boys there were three things that were important to me – firstly that we both of us liked the name, secondly that they wouldn’t feel silly at school being called it by the teacher (they’ve already got a surname that could cause them trouble) and thirdly what the name meant. There were a few names that we liked the sound of but when I looked up the meaning were either lacking in character or we just plain didn’t like.

It might seem a little silly to be pedantic about what the name means but in some cultures it’s really important – it’s setting out an expectation, a declaration or a promise for that child. I was reminded in a sermon the other week about the importantance the Bible places on names and how their meanings give the owner a direction and purpose and define their character.

In the Jewish and Christian scriptures the impact of a name was taken so seriously that it was as not uncommon for someone to take on a new name to symbolise a change in their life or a promise made to them. For example

  • Abram (meaning exalted father) becomes Abraham (father of many nations)
  • Sarai (meaning princess) becomes Sarah (meaning my princess)
  • Jacob (meaning supplanter or usurper) becomes Israel (meaning one who wrestles with God)
  • Naomi (meaning pleasant) renames herself Mara (meaning bitter) because she is so distraught at what has happened to her.
  • Simon is renamed Peter by Jesus to symbolise he will be the rock on which the church is built
  • Saul (meaning questioner) becomes Paul (meaning small and humble)

So my eldest is Isaac which means laughter and reminds me that in the Bible Sarah laughed with disbelief when she heard that God was promising her a child and she laughs with joy when that promise was fulfilled. I pray that Isaacs life may be filled with laughter and joy and seeing Gods promises fulfilled however impossible they might be. Toby means simply that God is Good; it reminds me how very good God has been to bless me with not one but two amazing boys when for several different reasons the prospect of having kids was off the table. I pray that Toby may have many many reasons to declare for himself that God is Good.

They’ve also got middle names; Isaacs is John which means ‘Yahweh has been gracious‘ which also fits perfectly and happens to be the name of both his Grandads. And Toby’s is Peter which means Rock and was the name that Jesus gave to Simon, one of his disciples saying that he would be the rock on which he built his church. Peter also happens to be the name of a great uncle on both sides so good family name too!

My middle name is after my mum – it’s Joy. I’ve had cause to reflect several times and it’s come home to me powerfully again recently that having joy as my middle name should not just be a family nod but something that I should embrace as defining me.

You must have heard the phrase, ‘xxxx is my middle name,’ when someone wants to claim that they are passionate about something. Or the notion that if you cut through someone you’d see something running through them like the words running through the middle of a stick of rock.

What if people could look at me and the way I live my life and could say to each other, “you know Katie Wigley, Joy is her middle name” or you know Katie – if you cut her in half you’d find Joy running all the way through her. I don’t mean that I’d be happy happy happy all the time – that’s just not realistic. But that somehow a deeper sense of peace and contentment in all circumstances would shine through; that the knowledge that I am deeply loved by the God who created the universe would impact the way I respond to life events; that the hope I find in Jesus would bubble out in how I live my life, that I would find and declare joy in the small and great wonders of this world that are all around us in nature and in people.

This doesn’t feel like much like me though. As someone who has suffered with depression and anxiety quite badly in the past I feel I have a predisposition towards the negative rather than joy being at my centre. But Joy is my middle name and I would love to own it and live it. On days when I’m feeling grumpy and down I’m going to take to try and take to heart the proclamation of Nehemiah who said to the Israelites, “Don’t be dejected and sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

One thought on “Joy is my middle name!

  1. A thought-provoking subject! I always felt sorry for Jacob( supplanter),as he seemed predestined to be mean! He did in fact have to wrestle against his circumstances and manipulate them and people to get his own way. He had to find that he couldn’t manipulate God!
    It’s great to have a name to live up to. My middle name is Mary and my parents chose it because ‘Mary sat at \Jesus’ feet…etc.


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