I’d never met her before; I would have remembered a name like that. There was a timidness to her, but she also carried a distinct strength. She was a large woman, but sturdy. This woman could hold her own, I thought.
Her name tag read: God’s Favour.
I imagined what it would be like, having such a moniker; it would be like being labeled with daily affirmation. Who am I? I’m God’s Favour.
I knew there had to be a story there and I hoped for an opportunity to find out what it was.
This morning as I was doing my daily devotional before work, her name kept popping into my mind. What would it be like to be given a name that spoke of your destiny, purpose and calling? I thought about the other names we identify with: Unworthy. Shameful. Not-Good-Enough. Broken. While not wearing name tag identifiers, we do, in some ways, walk around displaying our perceived faults. As I thought of this, I teared up, realizing that even I, have allowed myself to be known by these names. Often when I catch my own negative self-talk, I’ll review the lie and then ask God what the truth is. He’s so much more affirming and life-giving in His appraisal of me, thank God. Literally.
Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, had once preached about God telling Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Furtick pondered why God would refer to him as Jacob, his given name and not the one He had changed it to– Israel– a far superior title. Jacob’s name meant supplanter, deceiver and heal-grabber, while the name Israel was symbolic of the covenant God had made with His chosen people. To Furtick, it seemed that God was saying that despite his faults, he was still seen, even with his many failings and shortcomings. The message for us is that we are seen not for who we are or even once were, but for who we’re becoming. This made me wonder if being given such a prophetic name- God’s Favour, would change how one felt about oneself? My need-to-know got the better of me and I vowed that if this new girl was at work when I got there, I was going to find out.
I nearly pounced when I saw God’s Favour come round the corner when I got off the elevator. “You probably hear this all the time,” I babbled. (So much for being chill.) “Is that the English translation for your name, or…?”
Her sigh, though slight, let me know this question was like asking someone over six-feet tall if they played basketball. “This is my name,” she said, gently caressing her name tag. “It was the name I was given at birth. My mother knew as she carried me that this was what I was to be called.”
“I’m guessing you get asked about your name a lot?”
“To be honest,” she sighed again, “I wish I didn’t have to wear a name tag. I’m actually shy and I’m dumbfounded that my name is such an oddity. It’s not that uncommon.”
God’s Favour is a common name? Where?
Before I could ask, she was answering the question forming on my tongue. “I’m Nigerian. My father had four wives, but he loved my mother the most. My step siblings did not have as a good a life as my mother’s children. He could be a cruel man. But when my mother was pregnant with me, our lives changed- for the better. Everything was improving, especially my father’s disposition. My mother decided that it was the child inside her that was bringing blessing to our family, so she gave me this name, God’s Favour, to give thanks and honour to God.”
Nigerian names like Patience and Glory, I’d heard before, but never a name as powerful as God’s Favour. I thought how strange it must be in the day to day: The phone rings and the caller asks, “To whom am I speaking?” and the response comes, “It’s me- God’s Favour.” I couldn’t imagine calling down the hall after her—”Hey, God’s Favour, could you give me a hand with Mrs. So-and-so…” I was curious if people shortened her name to Favour or God forbid, God, but I didn’t ask.
The masks and shields we were both wearing as part of our workplace’s COVID-19 protocol provided a little buffer for this rather intimate conversation. I knew I was perhaps bolder than most in my questions, but I was so curious. The questions kept coming and I guess she appreciated my child-like fascination because she continued to indulge me.
“I hope I’m not insulting you with my questions; I just believe that names are so important and the name you’re given can really impact your life.” I’d read about a family with the surname, Daw, and they named their child, Zippity Doo. I didn’t tell her this though. “What has it been like, growing up with such a strong name?”
“Well,” she began thoughtfully, her dark eyes fluttering. “It’s been a blessing and a curse. For the longest time, I felt like my name was like having a Christian bumper sticker. I felt like I couldn’t say anything wrong, or even speak my mind; I had to live up to my name, behave almost saint-like. But home in Nigeria especially, I found that people used my name as some sort of good luck charm. I was constantly asked to pray for, or bring favour to a person or their household, as if my name were some sort of talisman. I learned to set boundaries; now I’m happy to tell people how to find favour with God, but it’s not through me. I choose to honour the name I’ve been given by letting my words be kind and edifying. I don’t curse—I can’t—not with this name, but I don’t want to anyway.”
Our conversation was cut short; we both had to get back to work. I had a feeling that for once, she didn’t mind answering the same question she’d no doubt been asked hundreds of times. I’d asked some good questions, she told me. God’s Favour smiled at me. Just writing that sentence makes me smile.