I hesitated writing this for a moment because I knew it would probably receive a slew of reactions. However, I think that it’s worth discussing because I know I cannot be the only one experiencing it.
I am happy to be my husband’s wife. While we both have a lot to learn about each other, about ourselves, and how to really be intentional about our time together despite our hectic schedules, being married to him has been wonderful. I am happy knowing that after years of being states apart, we can live in the same space.
There are things I expected would take some time getting used to such as being referred to as a Mrs, waking up with him in my/our bed, and saying “our” and “we” instead of “my” and “I” – words that I’ve gotten so accustomed to using. Yet I never expected to feel the complex emotions surrounding changing my last name.
Before marrying my husband, I knew I wanted to take on his last name. It’s a decision that while I know not many people are in favor of, is one that I’ve thought about and considered for a long time. I don’t believe that you have to change your name in order to be husband and wife or to be referred to as your husband’s wife. I am choosing to, however, because it’s something I would like to do.
Yet as I begin to start the daunting and lengthy process of changing my last name legally to match his, I feel a rush of the memories of my maiden name washing over me like waves in the ocean. For all of my life I was my last name. For all of my life, a major part of my identity was in my surname – a name that belonged to both my grandmother (by marriage) and my mother.
A name that represented my large family and our history.
A name that always guaranteed that I would be the last one to be called for everything unless there was someone with W, X, Y, or Z last name.
So why is it that I feel a twinge of sadness?
Yet the truth is my identity is not in my name. Yes for many years my last name was a name that I will always and I mean ALWAYS hold dearly to my heart. My married name my change, but at heart I will always represent the “W” as long as God allows me to live. I will never ignore or deny my surname. Yet my identity is not in that name or any name.
My identity is in Christ and oddly enough, this whole name-change thing is reminding me of that. I am reminded through this that even our names our temporary and do not define who we are as a person. Things, circumstances, and people are constantly changing, but Christ and how He defines us does not. My name might change, but who I am as a person does not. The memories that I carry around with me does not change because my last name does. I am no less who I was yesterday because my name will be different in a couple of months.
Honestly, I realize that part of the feelings I’ve felt, were because I have placed my identity in my name for so long. By changing my name, I am no longer the girl who’s announced last on roll call or has the longest last name. I am no longer the girl who has the last name that some pre-K students can’t pronounce because it has too many syllables. I’m no longer the girl who’s last name rhymes with “should burry.”
I am no longer be those things, but I am still who I am. I am still my mother’s daughter, my brother’s sister, my aunt’s niece, and my cousin’s cousin. I am still my husband’s wife, my employer’s employee, my God’s child. I am still awkward, an introvert (although I push myself to be extroverted in most social situations), a cat-lady, a coffee-enthusiast, and a book hoarder. Those things won’t change about me – even though my name is.
Although our names help to identify us, it isn’t our identity.
Although our last names connect us to our families, it is isn’t our identity.
Our identity is not rooted in something as transient as a name.
Our identity is in Christ alone.
So what is in our names? While our names represent a lot, those representations don’t change because our last name does. If God wills it for our husband and I to have children, they will still know and acknowledge my side of the family’s surname – learning about it’s history and the quirks that come with it. The memories, the history, the hilarious moments that have come along with having this last name, rich with vivid moments won’t change even though my name will.
While yes, there is still a sense of loss, there’s a sense of hopefulness and excitement, too. There’s a peace in knowing that although my last name is changing, my identity, my memories, and my attachment to my(now our) family does not.
If you are getting or are recently married and considering changing your name, do what you feel is right for you, your family, and what God is leading you to do, but remember that your identity is not in your name. You are not no longer your husband’s wife if you choose to not legally change your name and you are not no longer your parent’s daughter if you choose to not to keep it. You are God’s beloved daughter, whom He sacrificed a great deal for, so that we would experience and know salvation through His Son, giving us immediate and never-ending access to Him.