When you’re younger, you spend a lot of energy assessing the baggage handed to you and trying to eradicate the inner darkness within. The beauty of age is that you stop wrestling with the dark and light that you were raised in and come to accept it as a part of your own inner life. That’s probably why I now, twenty-eight years into my marriage, feel I have the wrong last name.
Twenty- eight years ago, I married and took my husband Steve’s last name. In the beginning it was weird to sign my new name on a check or hear it called out by another. “Mrs. Roese?” I would turn and look for my mother-in-law before realizing they were addressing me.
Reflecting back now, I wish I hadn’t taken Steve’s last name. Not because I’m mad at him or because historically women were property of their husband and therefore took their husband’s last name, but because my married name doesn’t authentically communicate who I am or where I come from.
In the Scriptures we see that names mattered. They told us about the person’s character (or the parents’ hope for their child). They told where they lived or what tribe they were connected to, which then told us about their religion, food preferences, rituals, etc. Names told us who the parents were and even what hopes their community had for the future. Names mattered because they housed identity.
I was reminded of this while pondering through John Chapter 1 & 2. In the opening sentence, the Apostle John identifies Jesus as “the Word” (Rev. 19:13). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This name for Jesus is a powerful one — 1:12-13 indicates that you must embrace “his name” to be saved. So we have to know what John meant when he called Jesus “the Word”. Words are a means of communication. They express what’s on one’s mind. Jesus as the Word means his life, his words, and his deeds are the very words and deeds of God Creator in Genesis 1:1. The Word, Jesus, reveals God to us (John 1:18). The name holds so much meaning behind it. It communicates way beyond the actual letters of the name itself.
My husband and I grew up in the same town in upstate New York. That means people in town know both of our families. When I’m home, it’s glaringly obvious that my married name is the wrong name for me.
Steve’s parents owned the small Christian bookstore on the corner of Main Street and Elm. His mom taught kids in Jr. Church at Main Street Baptist for over 25 years. His dad served as elder and/or deacon. Steve speaks of waking in the mornings to his mother singing hymns at the piano. His family was the true blue Christian “Beaver Cleaver” family; when I’m in my hometown and sign a receipt or order a pizza using my married last name, that’s what comes to their minds. And it’s not accurate. It’s not where I come from. It’s not what shaped me into who I am today. It feels like a lie.
“I’d like to order three large pizzas for the Frazier’s. One with sausage, pepperoni, extra sauce, and cheese; one large with just pepperoni, extra sauce, and cheese; and one large plain, extra sauce, and cheese.”
“Okay, that will be ready in 30 minutes.”
My extended family is well known in our town, and using my maiden name invokes a different mental story than my married name. Frazier says things like large farm family, foodies, tribal, land, greenhouses, American dream, and success. And it also says mental instability, rants, financial loss, sexual perversion, and abuse. And I don’t want to back away from any of those pictures as they were all a part of shaping me.
Steve and I have been considering how I can reclaim the authenticity of my name. Even if it’s a simple process to legally change it, I’m fearful of the ramifications later on down the road. All those documents signed over the past 28 years with my husband’s last name, wills, mortgages, cars, retirement funds, etc. What if something goes amiss because I took back my real identity?
As I age, it becomes more and more important to me that I embrace the wholeness of my life.
So let me start by saying, “Hello, my name is Jackie Frazier-Roese.”