Yes, that’s really my name…

I had to chuckle yesterday. I was browsing through my blogroll links, checking out new posts while drinking my morning coffee. Seems like there’s always something new on Iyov’s blog, even if most of it requires more time than I have in the morning to properly digest. In any case, my eye was drawn down the list of blogs on the right side of the page. I’d previously linked to his site and noticed that he was kind enough to reciprocate (note that I’m assuming that the author of “Iyov” is a male, given that “Iyov” is Hebrew for “Job”).

What caused me to chuckle is how he reciprocated. The link is titled “E-S Edwards”, with “E-S” clearly being an abbreviation of my first name “ElShaddai” and an avoidance of writing a proper name of God, much as translators use “LORD” in the Bible to avoid the tetragrammatron. That simple shortening recalled a life’s worth of unique experiences and inner debate for me.

But, before I get to the serious stuff, I want to throw out a few anecdotes from my almost 35 years of “ElShaddai living”:

  • Yes, I know what my name means. I prefer “God, All-Sufficient” to “God Almighty” as far as translations go.
  • Yes, I know the song. For most, that inevitably means Amy Grant, but some actually know that Michael Card wrote it. No, I was not named after the song; I was born in 1972, the song was written in 1981. And, no, as far as I know, the song was not written about me.
  • For years, my grandparents in Texas would send cards addressed to “E. S. Edwards”. I don’t know if they thought “El” was my first name and “Shaddai” was my middle name, but it was always a bit odd, especially since my given middle name is my mom’s maiden name, “Cichocki” (yes, my full name is a mouthful: ElShaddai Cichocki Edwards – that’s Hebrew, Polish and Welsh for the record).
  • Shifting uncomfortably in the pew of my hometown church as one of the elders gave a sermon on the names of God. This was a family church; everyone knew everyone and it was hard not to see a few glances when the elder came to “ElShaddai”.
  • You know how drug stores have those kiosks of personalized license plate key rings? For years growing up, I thought that I’d eventually find a store that had an “ElShaddai” key ring in stock! It took me a while to understand that my name wasn’t likely to be in with the Tom, John and Harry’s of the world.
  • I’ve tried to avoid nicknames based on my name, but have had to relent on a couple of occasions, mostly allowing others to shorten it to “El” for athletic contests when it’s just impractical to spit out a three-syllable Hebrew name when you’re sucking air.
  • Being confronted in a restaurant where I was working as a bus boy by an older couple on vacation. They had noticed my name tag and absolutely demanded to know why I wasn’t in Israel fighting for my homeland. Definitely a headscratcher at that point for me, but certainly not the last time that I’ve had to explain that I’m not Jewish.
  • Speaking of which, the most personally humorous professional anecdote was the time I flew to New York to conduct product training at B&H Photo, a NYC institution run by Hasidic Jews. I was ushered to their training room upstairs and led off with introductions. I soon found myself, ElShaddai, presenting to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, another Moses, etc. They were very polite about the whole situation and never made me feel uncomfortable; at least I didn’t have to pronounce my name more than once for them!
  • My birth certificate actually has a hyphen on it: “El-Shaddai”, but I’ve never used it. It’s hard enough to insist that people capitalize the “S”.

I can’t say that I’m the only (human) person to currently bear this name, only that I’ve never personally met anyone else with that name nor have I met anyone who has known anyone else. Internet searches have only turned up one or two possible hits. So I have the privilege of having a name that almost no one else has. And it’s a real name, not a made up name or alternate spelling name. My name exists and has been known for thousands of years since the time that Abram walked on this earth!

And therein lies my problem. Everyday I physically live the commandment to not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will punish anyone who misuses His name.” (Exodus 20:7, HCSB) Everything I do, say and think will be judged in a way that very few others experience. What will it be like to be at the Last Judgement and be called by name to face my Creator and my Namesake?

I have often pondered going to seminary and undertaking theological studies. But the weight of the responsibility of using my name for any eventual published work or teaching ministry is paralyzing. The warning that “not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1, HCSB) is multiplied in my mind, knowing that using the name of God to teach under could be a powerful force of attraction for His good, but could also be tragically misused for my personal gain and selfish heart. Of the latter, there have been times where I feel so off course in my walk with Christ that I can’t help but feel like an antichrist, bearing false witness to His name through my sinful actions.

The original URL of this blog was http://elshaddai.wordpress.com/, but I changed it to the current address to avoid any hint of misusing the name of my Lord. Even signing my blog posts as “elshaddai” now gives me pause and I wonder if I should choose something more generic to avoid offending people like Iyov. Is that being reverent of a sacred name or am I simply being fearful to use a unique gift? Is my name a talent to be invested that it might bear extra fruit for Christ? So far, I’ve been the third servant in the parable of the talents who was afraid to lose his master’s money and buried it in the ground.

Just because I bear the name of God doesn’t mean that I claim to be God. I have never done so and I never will. My parents blessed me exceedingly with my name and I can only pray that God would grant me a extra live coal from His alter to purify my life so that my name will glorify His name.

Amen.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted July 10, 2007 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

    First, thanks for the link!

    My goodness! I didn’t realize that was your actual name on your birth certificate and everything! Well, I hope you can forgive me for abbreviating your first name.

    It is amazing how many names “almost” incorporate the name of God (often in the form of the tetragrammaton. For example, take former Prime Minister Netanyahu (as Jackie Mason might say — please take him!)

    Here is an interesting point of trivia — according to some, it is also forbidden to say the name of an angel (unless it is a common name, such as Michael or Gabriel.)

    You might ask– what about “the Satan” — Satan is certainly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but as a title [“adversary”] thus “the” Satan or “ha-Satan” — and in normative Jewish belief, at least, he is also not considered to be a fallen angel but a servant of God, just as the District Attorney reports to the Judge.

  2. Posted July 11, 2007 at 12:31 AM | Permalink

    Iyov,

    No worries. I’ve been called many worse things under the sun; to have my name abbreviated is no reason to take offense.

    I’m curious – other than Michael and Gabriel, what other angels are named? I recall Raphael from the book of Tobit – are there others? Assuming those three were in the high seven that Raphael mentions, does Jewish tradition identify the other four? That is, if you’re willing to mention them. Wikipedia noted that the reluctance to say God’s name was rooted in the change from Hebrew to Aramaic during the Babylonian exile… that the Aramaic word used in the commandments changed the meaning from ‘do not misuse the name of God’ to ‘do not pronounce the name of God’. Does that sound correct?

    The District Attorney / Judge metaphor works for me – certainly the explicit role of Satan as prosecutor is found in Job. One of the ways I learned to read the post-Torah books, and especially the Nevi’im, was as an overarching legal prosecution, whereby God used the prophets and other means to formally indict the Jewish leadership of breach of covenant and then hand down punishment via the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD after Christ the Messiah had announced the sentence.

  3. Posted July 11, 2007 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

    Hey ElShaddai,

    It makes me wonder about all the Hispanics named Jesus. Do you suppose it causes the same reluctance in them?

    Since learning some time ago that that’s your real name, I’ve come to like it. There’s nothing wrong with having a unique name. You certainly are a one-of-a-kind!

    Gary

  4. Posted July 11, 2007 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    There is actually an entire book called “Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible” — it has extensive coverage of angelology. There are a number of them, especially in the Midrashic and Talmudic literature One big angel in the Bible (or at least the extended Apocryhpa) is Enoch, often associated with Me-ta-tron. In any case, angels form more of a folk religion within Judaism — it is strictly forbidden, for example, to pray to an angel (by Maimonides’ fifth of 13 principles, among other places.)

  5. Posted July 16, 2007 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

    This is interesting, and although we have corresponded many times, I had often wondered if this was truly your name or not–but I didn’t think it polite to ask.

    Now, there’s still an unanswered question here–at least I think there is. Surely there must be a story surrounding your mother and/or father’s decision to give you such an unusual name. Perhaps you can share that.

  6. Posted July 17, 2007 at 12:15 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for stopping by, Rick. Yes, there’s a back story, but it’s immensely private to my dad and late mom, so much so that even I don’t know the full details – just that it involved their personal situation at the time, a great deal of prayer and dream revelations from the Almighty Himself.

    They were a few years into their college marriage and had recently moved from late 1960’s Chicago to the end of the road at Homer, Alaska. Both had been involved in the youth ministry educational program at Valparaiso University, but left before completing their degrees, trading a university program in the politically-charged city for a frontier life working in the fish cannery and on logging ships.

    I like to think that the revelation of my name was God’s assurance to my parents that He was with them even up in Alaska and would provide what they needed to keep moving forward. There may be more to the story, but even I don’t know the details. Suffice it to say, He is sufficient for the needs of His people.

  7. Posted October 21, 2007 at 10:46 PM | Permalink

    Cool story. I was actually just looking for some place to compliment you on the tagline “a life in search of the joy of worship.” I like that.

  8. Posted October 22, 2007 at 7:49 AM | Permalink

    I was actually just looking for some place to compliment you on the tagline “a life in search of the joy of worship.” I like that.

    Thanks! See this article for more on that.

  9. Posted November 16, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    nice blog, ElSheddai.

    as far as the Hispanics named Jesus… well, it wasn’t such a problem living in So Cal but it it’s been fun being on the web. What I find rather funny as well is my last name, Saenz means saint. In English, my name is Jesus Saint.

    -jesus 😉

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