Friends, knowing how much name meanings matter to me, have asked what her name means. Well, technically Bethany means “house of mourning” and Jordan means “descendant,” but that isn’t why this name belongs to her. The first time I was pregnant, I had the most vivid dream I’ve ever had that we had a baby girl and her name was Bethany. It was strange because I had never been a fan of the name, but figured there must be some significance. A couple months later we found out our first was a boy and the whole idea left as we decided that his name would be Lucas Emanuel, because he would bear the light of our God with us.
A year after we had our little light bearer we learned that our second baby was on its way, and it did turn out to be a girl. Her name was Rachel Katherine … for a couple months in utero. One day I looked at Matt and said, “I love the name Rachel, Matt, but my baby isn’t Rachel. She’s Bethany.” As we thought about middle names, I found that most often when I looked up Bethany, Bible verses would show up talking about Bethany beyond the Jordan River. Thus her full name was birthed first in my heart and then she arrived, and there is absolutely no other name that could ever capture her femininity, fervor for living, or her fantastically feisty personality. She is Bethany. Beth. Bethy. Beth-beth. Bethanee-nee. B.
For me, her name reminds me of the town in the Bible. Bethany beyond the Jordan was the place Jesus went after cleansing the temple, healing people and being called the son of David. All of these good things were ignored by the chief priests who criticized Jesus for allowing the children to refer to him as the son of David (Matthew 21). Bethany was a retreat.
Jesus’ good friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived in Bethany and hosted him several times (Luke 10, John 11). Bethany was a place of fellowship.
Jesus is baptized prior to ministry in Bethany (Mark 1:9-11). It was a place of preparation.
He is prepared for his death and burial through a woman’s sacrificial anointing of his body in Bethany (Matthew 26:6,7). It was a place of purposeful adoration.
To me the name connotes a place Jesus felt welcome and comfort; a safe place. When I say her whole name (which is most often when she is in trouble) it reminds me that even Jesus was sometimes weighted down by the worries of this life and needed to be ministered to … that he doesn’t expect me to be above neediness.
It has been a day inundated with redirection for my B. Today, in my weariness, I am encouraged in my parenting to not make contention between Bethany and I the means or the end to these troublesome hours of discipline. When I speak her name, I am reminded to minister to her; that what she needs isn’t scolding, but Mommy’s eyes, attention, redirection, yes, but more than that my heart.
And as I attempt to minister to her, I acknowledge the beauty of a God who doesn’t scold, but who loves me. A king who left the safety of heaven, and traded it in for the ferocity of the cross. A man who has grappled with sorrow. A Savior who has become my safe place.
I didn’t understand why I was so convinced of the need of naming her Bethany when at the time it was not my favorite name, and yet as I look into the pools of shimmering mahogany that are her eyes, I realize that she is his child first and second, his reminder of his gift to me. She is a handful for sure, but so am I sometimes.
I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to bless me with a little girl … this little girl. Someone who reflects the good parts of me and the parts that God is reforming in me, but more than that, I am grateful that the Father can use the heart of a child to lead me closer to his, by reminding me that his arms are outstretched to me, always welcoming me into my safe place.
Sometimes he holds me close and other times I imagine him taking my face between his hands as I just did with Bethany, and lovingly whispering to me that my present pain, self-centeredness, or attitude is not his best for me. It is not why he came. In these times he redirects my heart to his purposes for me, and as he trains and guides, he gently loves and encompasses me in the safety of his arms. Sometimes he doesn’t change the situation, but with my eyes fixed on him he calms his child.