I remember driving when the boys were little. I’m not sure where we were going or what we were talking about when one of them said, “Your name isn’t Michelle. It’s Mommy.”

I’ve had a lot of names in my life, but I don’t know that I’ve ever named myself.

My parents named me Michelle Annette Schmeiser. I soon had nicknames: Ripper (because I was always “ripping” around) and Mickey (no idea, I think my parents had some unconscious desire to connect me to Disney, maybe since Disney World opened the year I was born).

In second grade, I tried to rename myself Samantha. I don’t remember why, but I do remember writing this name at the top of school papers. Mrs. Malchow probably laughed every time she saw it.

When I got married, I took my husband’s name. This was reinforced in letters from my Grandma who addressed our letters to Mr. and Mrs. David Henrichs. When I was ordained, she asked me what the proper address would be (Rev. and Mr. David Henrichs).

By the way, Reverend wasn’t a name I gave myself, either. Certainly, I chose to go to seminary, and I worked hard to pass my ordination exams. But in the Reformed tradition, a call to ordained ministry comes vertically from God and horizontally from the community. My role was to say “yes” to the name placed upon me.

I can claim a name for myself, but that’s a bit like claiming authority for yourself. You can do it, but unless other people acknowledge it, you don’t actually have it. We can remake ourselves and even legally change our name, but without our relationships with others, it isn’t real.

When I began to say “yes” to my call to ministry, there were a number of forms and questions I needed to complete. I remember in one, saying that it was easy for me to call myself a disciple but what I struggled with was calling myself a child of God.

Looking back, I think this is still true. I have agency in being a disciple. It’s a name that I participate in calling myself. However, it’s secondary to accepting the name God first places on me.

Baptized as an infant, I did not bring myself to the font. Not until many years later did I claim for myself the vows made on my behalf. But even before my parents presented me for baptism, I was first named by God. And when all the names other people give me – and even the names I try to give myself – come to an end, it will still be God’s name upon me.

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always. – Rev. 22:1–5 (CEB)


It’s Five-Minute Friday. Today’s post was written while listening to the waves of the Adriatic Sea.

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2 Thoughts to “name”

  1. I wanted to change my name when I was younger too! But yes, the most important thing is the fact that God named us.

    1. If I think about it (for more than the 5 minutes we have for FMF) I probably still want to “change” my name rather than being who God has named me. A lifelong journey of living into my name.

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