When my water broke four weeks early on the Friday night before Valentine's Day, we still hadn't decided on a name. We had toyed with about four or five top name with meanings and a whole slew of middle name combinations. We'd been praying fervently for weeks that God would give us a name for this man-to-be.
We know God is a namer. One of the first tasks he gives Adam is to name the animals. Names reflect identity, the trajectory of people's lives, the changes that occur when God's story collides with human dust.We had felt strongly that "Elisa Noelle" was given to us as a promise and have already been struck by how much our daughter has lived into her name. Because of this, we were holding out for a name that would hold our hopes for this child and hints of his identity yet-to-come. At 11:30, it still wasn't clear.
As I tried to doze before we headed in to the hospital, a name floated into my anxious mind: Ezra James. Was that it?
The night was cold, and we rode in tense silence, unsure of what the next 24 hours would bring. As we watched college students shiver along the sidewalks, I asked Patrick, "If someone asked you, point blank what your son's name was, what would you say?"
Without hesitation he said, "Ezra James."
We felt peace flood over us, as if God was lifting a corner of the curtain on the mystery we were about to meet. We may not have been ready to welcome our son, but He was. He knew his name.
So what about Ezra do we love and hope our son lives into as he grows?
First of all, his name means, "God helps." We pray our son knows God as the author of all help and as a near One whose heart is inclined toward his children.
Then, there are facets of the Biblical man we hope our son reflects:
He was a rebuilder of a broken place, of a broken people; a leader to exiles.
Five times in the book of Ezra (that we counted in hazy hospital days), it says "The gracious hand of the Lord was upon him."
He was trusted without reserve by those in authority as a man who had integrity, was well-versed in God's law, and could be counted on to make wise decisions. The king sent him with favor and authority to anyone he would meet.
He lead by example and with faith, choosing humility before the Lord instead of power and security. Our favorite story about Ezra is when he returns with loads of treasure through bandit-filled territory and fasts instead of fastening on more weapons:
I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (Ezra 9:6). His example of grief and repentance leads many to consider their ways.
He lead with sensitivity and compassion. When his reading of the law prompts people to despair (Nehemiah 8), he and Nehemiah stop the reading, declare a time of celebration and remind the people of all ways God has been faithful.
Most of all, we love the description (and order of living) of Ezra was a man who "had committed himself to studying the Revelation of , to living it, and to teaching Israel to live its truths and ways." (Ezra 7:10, MSG). We pray our son would learn, live, and lead like the man before him. We pray he would always first embody what he seeks to impart to others.
And James? A long time ago, I had a fleeting thought that one day I would have a son named James who would be great in the eyes of the Lord. What a beautiful promise of a life lived before God. While we don't know for sure if that really was a word from the Spirit or not, we love James as a disciple of Jesus who insisted that faith and actions cannot be divorced from each other, who urged people to live in ways that coincided with who they knew Jesus to be.
We hope James is another man who can help shape our son's character and way of being.
So, there you have it. We love this child. We have prayed long for this child and believe God has amazing plans that are yet to unfold. We hope we can train and graciously love this child, with God's help, into the man he is intended to be.