It was a less than extraordinary Valentine’s Day. The reason being that I celebrated it with a Dave. Apparently 90% of people in Britain know a Dave. Worse still, 1/4 women have dated a Dave. So Dave is not really ‘one in a million’.

There’s something about Daves. Apparently, according to research published in the Independent there are more Daves who are currently CEOs of FTSE 100 companies than the entire number of women! http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/the-figures-that-prove-britain-is-run-by-men-named-dave–x1AL-ujU6g. Daves even have a TV station named in their honour. The over-representation of Daves is unlikely to change soon as the same research points out than 1 in 5 people consider David as a name for their baby.  Dr Seuss hit the nail on the head in his poem ‘Too Many Daves’. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171612 .

I’m not sure why my parents-in-law chose to name their son David. It’s based on the Hebrew word for ‘friend’ or ‘beloved’. Hebrew names focus on meaning. In our own culture sounds and trends seem more important. When my daughter was born the midwife asked, ‘So will you be calling her Lauren?’ I was a little taken aback. It hadn’t occurred to me. It turned out Lauren was not the midwife’s name, it was just she had just delivered a whole clutch of baby girls whose parents confidently stated that they were naming their daughter Lauren ‘because it’s so unique!’ Originality was not always so prized.  I often wonder how my great uncle felt when, coming from a family of 16, he was the one of two brothers both named George.  Was it worse to be the first George and be usurped or the second George with a hand-me-down name?

This Sunday, our minister Dave preached as sermon on names, and particularly the stories of Biblical characters who had their names changed. There’s quite a list: Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Jacob/Israel,….The pattern continues in the New Testament Simon becomes Peter, Levi becomes Matthew, Saul becomes Paul. Some Biblical folk change their own name. I always feel Ruth should have heard warning bells when her mother-in-law Naomi (meaning ‘pleasant’) changed her name to Mara (‘bitter’). When God acts as name-changer it’s to reflect the game-change that has occurred; profoundly altered people require a new tag. Sometimes there’s some divine irony thrown in…the proud Saul becomes called ‘Small’ Paul, tempestuous Simon gets to be called ‘Rock’ by his wryly smiling friends.

All of which leaves me wondering two things. How much have the names we have been called constrained us? I am thinking not so much about what is on our birth certificate as the more insidious labels we internalise from our childhoods: the 11year olds told that they weren’t suited to academic study; the sexist inferences of being told we ‘throw like a girl’ and all those told we are ‘a chip off the old block’. If we ever break free from these labels, wouldn’t it help to have a new name to mark the time we broke free? The final book in the Bible speaks of a strange but wonderful possibility of receiving a new, secret name:

And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it. (Rev 2:17)

I like this idea that, at the end of time, we will finally receive a totally fitting name, one that sets us apart and makes perfect sense to us. My guess is it probably won’t be Dave.