My name is weird. It’s beautiful, but it’s weird. For the record, the phonetic pronunciation is Jih-meen.
My mum tells me that she invented my name when she was a child. It’s a combination of my grandmother’s name (Jackie) and my Aunt’s name (Charmaine). Add to that some Afrikaans pronunciation, and you land here. The land of “oh yes, it is a unique name”, and “yes, my parents sure are creative”.
I choose how I explain my name in a verbal introduction based on how much extra patience I have for that day; option one is “yes it’s pronounced like Janine, but with a m” or “it’s like Jasmine, without the s”. My break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option is to just say Jamine once, and then smile and nod to whatever variation I get back from the individual I’m being introduced to.
Like most people I care what I am called, but there are only so many times I can correct people in a day.
The name change perspective
As a kid I dreamt of the day I would be old enough to change my name. I wanted to be a Roxy instead. When I was 8 years old, she sounded cool. She sounded like the kind of person whose name wasn’t butchered every time a class roll call took place. Roxy would always find a mug or a keychain with her name on it at a novelty store.
Later on, as a Christian, I read about God changing names of people in the Bible. It seemed to me that when God shifted the direction of their life, gave them a new purpose, He changed their name.
In the culture of the time, names held a literal meaning of the persons character or future. As I learned about speaking words of faith into life and through prayer, that mattered even more to me. I prayed for that kind of encounter with God, because as far as I could google in 2005 Jamine had no clear meaning.
As an adult, I don’t dislike the name Jamine. I disliked some of the challenges involved with having a unique name. For example, when I order a coffee at a cafe, I’m that customer making intense eye contact with the barista calling out names until my coffee is in my hand. If I zone out for a second, I’ll miss the moment where the barista stares at the side of the cup and calls out something like “long black for German”. I’m not kidding, that happened.
Alternatively, they just call out the type of coffee repeatedly until I realize I belong to the unnamed cup that’s now getting cold at the counter. I will save the tales of being someone named Jamine going on a first date with someone you met online (hello dating in 2021) for a future article.
Encounter with God
Regardless, I didn’t become Roxy. Nor did I have an encounter with God where I left with a new name like Abraham and Sarah did in Genesis 17. I am still Jamine, but I have had many encounters with God where I’ve left with new words of hope, faith and purpose for my life. Moments where I felt Jesus remind me that I am loved, and called and purposed. Some of these moments came from the mouths of people in my world, I believe inspired by a heart for God.
Christians often discuss the power of words, speaking faith and allowing words to create the world around you. Because we understand that the “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs chapter 18 verse 21).
In the work that I do I have the privilege of interacting with people, many of whom have a variety of disabilities. I hear accounts of how people with disabilities are treated in the community and in church. I hear stories of how they are “named”. Named their mobility device. Named their diagnosis. Avoided instead of being named at all because of discomfort or fear on the part of the other person.
Love and individualism
As church go-ers we fail to hold space for individuals with different bodies or brains than ours. Sympathy often underlines a misunderstanding rather than allowing empathy to drive connection and appreciation. I hear people called names that diminish their worth and their brilliance because their body or their mind is different.
I realise that this happens in many areas of the community, not just the church. But I find myself wondering as people of faith, who value the names we call ourselves… As people who preach scripture and a message that emphasises the importance of how we hold the power of life and death in our words… shouldn’t we do better?
As people who cling to the truth that God calls his children loved enough to send his son Jesus to die for them, shouldn’t we strive to emulate this? Let’s not hide behind ignorance. Let’s not bury this issue in the conservative argument of “political-correctness”.
We each belong in the house of our Father. This is no less true for someone with an additional chromosome, or who uses a powered wheelchair to get around. We are called loved, we are called saved by grace, we are called purposed and chosen by God. We are called by our name.
Jamine Gardner is an Occupational Therapist specialising in paediatric development and disability. Jamine runs a children’s ministry program for children with special needs at church, and is passionate about seeing people walk with Jesus in every stage of their life. Jamine runs a paediatric practice with her best friend, loves going to the beach with her dog, and laughing with the people she loves.