When I was born, my mother named me Mecheel Leigh Ritchie. She named me after the daughter of a friend. The daughter contracted spotted mountain fever when she was little and she passed away. To honor the life of this little girl, my mother gave me her first name, spelling it the same way she did.
I never focused too much on my name until I started school. The beginning of the school year is a bit unnerving for most kids. I remember the questions that swirled around in my mind each new year. Questions like, “Which teacher will I get?” “Will my best friend be in my class?” “Will my desk be in the front or in the back?” Most kids ask themselves these questions. One question that doesn’t usually make the list, (that is, if your name is John, Sally, Susie or Tom) is, “Will the teacher say my name correctly?”
However, that question dominated my mind. Why? Because without fail, each new teacher called me Metch-uwl, Meh-sheil or Michael. No one ever called me Michelle, which is my name. Although, I admit M-e-c-h-e-e-l is a unique way to spell it.
I was a very shy kid and first day roll call was a nightmare! Instead of simply raising my hand and quickly and quietly saying, “Here.” I had to answer the follow-up question, “Is that how you say your name?” I went to school for 14 years. During that time, I don’t remember anyone pronouncing my name correctly at first glance. This was my life and I learned to accept it.
Graduation finally came and my school days were over. A year later, I was married. The wedding was unforgettable and afterward we spent two weeks honeymooning and park-hopping at Disney World. It rained every day, but we didn’t care.
In addition to the fun and romantic things we did during those two weeks, we also had to do some practical things like changing our address, our car tags, etc. Government agencies are not known for their flair and enthusiasm, but those hum-drum chores went on without a glitch until we went to the Social Security Office.
When we arrived there we presented our marriage certificate and all the other documents they asked us to submit. The clerk took a look at everything and informed me that my name was incorrect. I didn’t understand. If anyone knew how to spell their name it was me. I would never forget it! I was traumatized by it!
It turned out my name was spelled wrong; not by me, but by the person who created my birth certificate and recorded it for vital statistics. I asked the clerk if we could just correct my name in the computer; but I found out quickly that this is not the way things are done. A name change took time and was expensive. My new husband frowned upon anything that would cost us more money.
When we left the office that day, the state of Florida officially recognized me as Mrs. Mechelle Foster. Not only did I leave with a new last name, but also with a new first name! ((And, I no longer have a middle name by the way. It wasn’t shown on my birth certificate.) It was hard to get used to at first, but at least no one calls me Michael anymore.
Although my name change was uncommon, the Bible is filled with stories of men and women whose names were changed by God. Why did God change their names? Because God changed them. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham when God told him he would no longer be son-less but would become the “father of many nations.” Jacob, the deceiver received a name change after he wrestled with God. His new name… Israel, means, “to struggle.” Saul, a self-proclaimed Pharisee of Pharisees and a persecutor of Christians, had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and would be called Paul for the rest of his life. In Latin, the name Paul means, “humble” or “little.” When God changes a person’s name, He has already changed their character.
God is still in the name-changing and character-changing business. No matter what name you were given when you were born or what you’ve believed or done throughout your life, God is ready, willing and able to change you from the person you are into the person He created you to be! Invite Him into your life today. You will never regret it. You will never be the same. Then you too can say, “He changed my name!”