I’m sorry that your social [media] life has been hindered by my recent name change.
I’m not going to pretend to be some highly educated, jet-setting, corporate ladder climbing woman. In fact, I’m probably almost the opposite – I don’t have a degree, I’m not well known, and I’m quite content in my mediocre job that has little to no prospect of status or monetary advancement anytime soon. I love being married to my husband and to be quite honest, I really enjoyed the process of changing my name! In fact, just yesterday we received a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs *insert our initials and common surname* and it gave both of us another sweet reminder of the change in our lives which has occurred over the past few months.
Are you really wondering why, in 2013, getting married means giving up the most basic marker of a female’s identity? Or are you simply creating yet another loophole in a popular social norm for more power hungry women to climb through?
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t doubt the importance of a name (nor do I want to put down the value of women). But really, what’s in a name? Not to go all Shakespeare on you, but the old bloke is right…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. To be honest, this isn’t a topic I think about often. I really don’t mind whether you’re married or not or whether you’re using your maiden name to sign off your article or something else – seriously, either is ok. But there is a reason why I changed my surname which goes far deeper than ‘convenience’ or ‘for the children.’
What you’re saying is, that the change of my surname must be cause for a fundamental me-change. Which means that the very essence of me comes from my five-letter maiden name and anything associated with it. My personality, my moral compass, the way I make decisions, the way I squint my eyes…they all depend on that five-letter word. If you’d told my teenage, identity searching self, to simply look at my family line for confirmation of all that I am and all that I could be, I can’t imagine my response would have been a terribly positive one – especially if it was on a day my mother was driving me insane. If this is the case, would you tell me why it is that I am still the same individual as I was 12 months ago, and how it is possible, that my new surname has not yet triggered a fundamental change of who I am?
There are two concepts which I think you failed to address so I thought I might instead.
Where is the source of identity?
It’s normal for humans to struggle with their identity. I’m not a teenage girl anymore, but tell me now that I need to look for something in creation to define who I am, whether that is my marriage or my work or the number of stamps on my passport, and I might almost believe you. But not quite. It’s a pretty easy trap to fall into – chasing after something in the hope that it will define you. Looking to do something because it will somehow make your existence worth the while. If you’ve ever looked for something to save you, something to rescue you, or something to hope and trust in for success in this world, rest assured friend, you are not alone.
I think identity has less to do with where we come from and what we’ve done and more to do with what we’re striving for and whose we are.
I believe that I am a child of the true God. I believe that He has chosen me to belong to something more exciting than what a round-the-world ticket can offer. I believe that every fibre of my being is in the process of changing to be more like Him. I don’t believe I was chosen because my surname was a particularly good one or because my family was any better than yours. I believe I was chosen because I am loved by the creator of the universe. That is who I identify with – that is whose I am. What I’m striving for is a relationship with someone so infinitely big and powerful, that anything I do without Him pales in insignificant comparison.
I don’t feel any less loved now that my surname has an extra letter or because I’m not listed at the top of the alphabet my name is not my identity. It isn’t the term which makes me something of significance in the world. My name doesn’t strengthen or lessen the value of my existence, because if it did, I’d only be as precious as the uniqueness of the name itself – a number which I have no control over. If our value comes from something as precious as a surname, well, thank my lucky stars I’m not married to a Li, Chang or Smith.
The second concept is the meaning of marriage itself.
Humans are social creatures. We were created for relationship. And there is no relationship like marriage. The very first book of the bible tells us that it wasn’t good for man to be alone! In fact, when woman was created, we’re told that the man sighed ‘at last.’ At last! At last, I have been given a friend. At last I have been given a lover. At last, I have been given a wife! I’m going to be bold and say that I think the same thought goes through every bridegroom when he sees his bride coming toward him too.
Marriage was designed by God as a good thing for a man and a woman. It was designed for them to give each other the help which was needed to serve and love and live in relationship with their creator in what was going to be a very trying life. It was designed as a complementation relationship to give men and women the companionship in the ways both so deeply desire. It’s empowering!
Men – Lead and love your wife – as Christ has led and loved the church.
Women – Submit to and respect your husband – as the church does to Christ.
Tim Keller puts it this way:
Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!
The problem is that men and women today have skewed God’s vision for marriage.
Both men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are looking for a marriage partner who will ‘fulfil their emotional, sexual, and spiritual desires.’ And that creates an extreme idealism that in turn leads to a deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry.
Those dreaming of the perfect match are outnumbered by those who don’t really want it at all, though perhaps they can’t admit it. After all, our culture makes individual freedom, autonomy and fulfilment the very highest values, and thoughtful people know deep down that any love relationship at all means the loss of all three. You can say, ‘I want someone who will accept me just as I am,’ but in your heart of hearts you know that you are not perfect, that there are plenty of things about you that need to be changed, and that anyone who gets to know you up close and personal will want to change them.
– Tim Keller
John Piper puts it like this:
The wonder of marriage is woven into the wonder of the gospel of the cross of Christ, and the message of the cross is foolishness to the natural man, and so the meaning of marriage is foolishness to the natural man.
My relationship with my husband is supposed to a snapshot of my relationship with Christ. It is a symbol of giving everything over – forsaking all others. Including my maiden name. No matter what the personal or professional consequences. It means a new driver’s licence, passport…it even means changing my facebook.
This is not a ‘giving up my rights’ relationship. In fact, it’s the total opposite. If my husband is loving me as Christ has loved and continues to love His people, my rights have been elevated above his own. The idea that a woman retains her own separate identity from her husband is indeed, a very new one. It’s a very sad one. It’s an idea that denotes mistrust, disinterest, disunity and an incomplete picture of the gospel and a real relationship with Christ.
Like I said before, I really am sorry that it is now harder for you to look me up on facebook. But I will not apologise for taking on the surname of the man who has promised to love me, put my needs above his own and to sacrifice his very life for mine if the circumstance demands it. I will not apologise for making the female body appear dependent on another. I will not apologise for looking like a fool in front of the millions of feminists who tell me I’ve given up my rights and my chance of coming out on top of my chauvinistic husband who expected me to give him my all. Because that ‘chauvinistic’ husband of mine has already given all of himself firstly to the cause of Christ and secondly to the cause of me.
A wife incredibly thankful for her husband.2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.