Abram Joseph Gonzales is the name of our newborn son. But for the first 24 hours of his life, his name was “Baby Boy.” We had 9 months to decide on a name for him, but apparently that wasn’t enough time. We looked at thousands of names, even weird names from other countries. Some of the suggested names on the baby-name websites were totally ridiculous…like Erysichthon, for example.
We ended up with a short list of names that we liked. Aniela put “Abram” on that list a long time ago. But we didn’t feel strongly enough about any one of those names, including Abram, to bestow it on our son while he was still in the womb.
As the due date approached, I have to admit that I was very bothered by the namelessness of my son. And I dreaded the scenario where one of us would be unhappy with his eventual name. But just like with any other big decision, I prayed about it. I asked God to make it clear to us what his name should be. And I consciously decided from that point on that I wouldn’t stress about it any longer. That’s when Aniela finally declared that she simply needed to see him before she could name him.
Waiting For a Name
The morning after our baby was born, we looked at him with amazement. He was so perfect. As Aniela held him closely to her, she said he looked like an A-baby. After 7 years of being Aniela’s boyfriend and husband, I still have no idea how she arrives to these random conclusions. I’ve learned to simply go with it.
I suggested Abram because I knew she liked that name. She liked that it’s an old, classic name. And I didn’t have a better A-name to suggest. So we tentatively agreed to go with Abram. Later that afternoon, I went to get some things from the car. During the peace and quiet of the long walk through the hospital and parking lot, I got the same affirmation that I’ve gotten for several other big decisions in my life. It’s a comforting sense of assurance that something I’m considering is indeed the right choice.
I got this assurance before I decided to become a teacher, before I moved to Austin, before I pursued Aniela, before I moved to Florida, before I proposed to Aniela and before several other key moments in my life. Right there in that hospital parking lot, I got that assurance once again;
“His name is Abram.”
I was reminded of the Biblical story of Abraham, a story I know quite well. Before Abraham was “the father of a multitude,” “the father of faith” and the founder of Judaism, he was just a businessman named Abram. He was successful. He owned lots of cattle and property. And he simply lived and worked according to the standards of the time.
Before He Was Abraham
For whatever reason, God singled out Abram and established a relationship with him. It’s easy for us to read a book and understand what God had planned for him. It’s all history now. But at the time, Abram had no idea what was happening. No one had ever heard of this God before. And God made no effort to fill in the details. His instructions were intentionally vague;
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
This was no small request. Abram wasn’t one of these wandering loafer guys who picks up and moves every few months. He was well-established and rooted in a town called Harran. I can just imagine the late-night conversations he had with his wife, Sarai. He had no way of justifying the move to her except for…
ABRAM: “I just feel like this is what God wants me to do.”
SARAI: “Ok Abram, but where exactly are we moving to? Where will we live?”
ABRAM: “I don’t know.”
SARAI: “How will we know when we’ve arrived?”
ABRAM: “I don’t know.”
SARAI: “Are you sure you can trust this god who’s telling you to uproot our lives?
ABRAM: “I don’t know.”
Abram usually gets all the attention in this story for his courageous faith. But Sarai’s respect and devotion towards her husband are just as remarkable. He had no more details for her than what God had told him. Nonetheless, she stood by her husband and went along with his crazy convictions. There are just as many lessons to be learned from Sarai’s choices as there are from Abram’s. But that’s another post for another time.
When God Makes a Promise…
As the story unfolds, God establishes a covenant with Abram and promises that Sarai would bear him a son. This was hard to believe because he was already 75 and she was 65. It turns out that God was only getting started. He told Abram to “look up at the sky and count the stars…as numerous as they are, so shall your offspring be.” He also promised him the Land of Canaan;
“The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
And guess what…Abram did have a son (25 years after the promise). And his descendants still have possession of that land (Israel). Granted, it’s the center of the longest, fiercest land dispute in world history. But nonetheless, God kept his promises. God changed the name of his covenant partner from Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). He also changed his wife’s name from Sarai (my princess) to Sarah (mother of nations).
An Inspired Name
Our little boy is finally home. His name is Abram 🙂 https://t.co/aPQazA0mWI
— Joseph Gonzales (@joseph11ag) November 21, 2017
With these deep, meaningful stories in mind, I believe that Abram is the right name for our son. It’s the name that his mother and I, his earthly father, have given him…knowing he’ll eventually have a relationship of faith with his heavenly father. For however long we have him, his mother and I will train his mind and his heart to recognize the voice of God’s Spirit…the same Spirit that spoke to Abram thousands of years ago.
And he must develop the same faith as Abram. When the people around him say “Abram, come here,” “do what we do,” “think like us,” “live this way” and “talk like we talk,” I pray that our Abram will get away from all that noise and listen to the quiet voice of God’s Spirit. I pray that he’ll know the heart of God for all kinds of situations and that he’ll act on what he knows. I pray he’ll be known for his discipline and his hard work. And I pray that his first impulse would be to serve others and to obey God’s promptings.
When my Abram fails, I pray that he admits it, learns from it and dismisses the fear of failing again. One thing I love about the story of Abraham and Sarah is that their failures are included in the story. No effort is made to portray them as superheroes who always did the right thing. No, they repeatedly screwed up. They didn’t believe God. They lied. And they badly mistreated Hagar and tried to activate God’s promises with their own efforts. In other words, they were human.
God doesn’t expect perfection, but rather, faithfulness. And that is what he got from Abraham. He showed up and kept coming back. He served God when it was tiring and inconvenient. And most important of all, Abraham believed God. Even when the promise seemed impossible, even when the promise took a long time, Abraham believed and trusted God. And even when God told him to surrender his son Isaac…the very son he’d been waiting for his whole life, Abraham complied. He was totally sold out to whatever God required of him. Long after Abraham had died, God referred to him as his friend (Isaiah 41:8). I can’t think of a better title than to be called God’s friend.
I’m clearly getting ahead of myself. Our Abram’s only three weeks old and I’m already writing about his character as a grown man. But I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from. These are just my prayers and I want him to read them one day. I’m truly grateful for each day we have him. But I certainly do hope he grows up to be a fine young man with character, a career and a family of his own.
And I want him to know that a lot of thought and prayer went into the choosing of his name. We didn’t choose Abram because it sounds cool or because it’s trendy. We chose Abram because it means something and there’s a story behind it. And we genuinely want our boy to reflect on the life of Abram / Abraham for the rest of his own life, to continually learn from the lessons of this patriarch.
Abram Joseph Gonzales
I’ve certainly learned a lot from the life of Joseph. He’s the central figure in the last 14 chapters of the Book of Genesis. He was loaded with talents and skills that God used in mighty ways. And just like his great grandfather Abraham, he trusted God and was full of faith.
Even before we decided to name our boy Abram, Aniela and I liked the idea of giving him a first and middle name that started with A & J so that his name would express that he’s an extension of us (Aniela & Joseph). Once we settled on Abram for his first name, Joseph was the obvious choice for his middle name. So now he has the names of two dynamic Biblical characters and a lifetime to learn from their stories.
What’s In a Name?
By default, a child usually takes the last name of his father instead of his mother’s. But passing my Hispanic last name onto our son was not a quick or easy decision for us. It obviously highlights the Mexican half of our boy that he gets from me. But the Romanian half of our boy, which he gets from Aniela, is unfortunately absent from his name.
This was no small concession for Aniela. She’s not one of these Europeans who has a distant connection to her home country. She spent the first 11 years of her life in Romania and has visited and lived in that area many times since.
Our Little Romexican
But perhaps the biggest factor in Aniela’s strong bond to her Romanian heritage is the tightly-knit community of Romanians who we know and love here in South Florida. In a sense, it’s like God plucked a handful of Romanians out of Romania and sprinkled them all over Broward County. And it seems to me that Aniela knows…well, all of them. And they all seem to know her.
Aniela’s main contention is that if Abram’s last name is only Gonzales, he may not identify with his Romanian heritage. Of course, the only thing he’s identifying with these days is his pacifier, but you get the point. Will he fit in with other Romanians if he doesn’t have one of their names? I don’t think this will be an issue whatsoever. Abram’s going to speak their language. He’s going to know their food and culture. He’s going to know their stories and he’s going to know where he comes from. Of course, he still doesn’t know that he’s in control of his arms, but when the time is right, he’ll learn about this important stuff!
The truth is…our boy’s Romanian heritage is indeed reflected by his name. It’s just not in his last name where you’d expect it to be. It’s hidden in his first name:
So now that we’ve got his name figured out, now all we have to do is raise him. As I mentioned in an earlier post, My Boy, Abram, I’m not feeling worried or overwhelmed by this responsibility. And I have the utmost confidence in Aniela. She’s already proving to be the supermom I suspected she would be. We’re now both laughing at the Aniela & Joseph of 2016 who often complained of being tired and not having enough time to do stuff. What a couple of fools they were!
Now that the Aniela & Joseph of 2017 decided to have a baby, it now looks like the Aniela & Joseph of 2018 and every following year are gonna be really busy all the time.
Just realized I’m not gonna get anything done for the next 18 years…
— Joseph Gonzales (@joseph11ag) November 23, 2017
Nonetheless, Aniela and I are so thankful for our healthy boy and so relieved that he’s now at home with us after 11 days in the NICU. When Abram is older, he can go by whatever nickname he wants, whether it’s Abe or AJ or something else. But as for Aniela and I, we’ll always call him Abram. We’re his parents and that’s the name we chose for him. And this is the official story of how we arrived to that name.
Of course, there’s no telling what may happen when God starts working in his heart and his mind. If God compels him to move, reveals a plan for his life or even gives him a new name, the only advice I can offer as his father is to cling to His words and go wherever He leads him – just like old Abram did thousands of years ago. His mother and I will be watching…either from here or from heaven…and we’ll be proud of our boy and the man he becomes.
Regardless of whether the path is clear,
In spite of all of your doubt and fear,
Don’t be concerned for the way things appear,
And never forget that your father is near.