by Mary Ann and Sam
Did you know there was a man in biblical times who took his wife’s family name? In Nehemiah 7:63, a man is mentioned named Barzillai, who had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead and had taken her family name. He changed his name to hers! When a friend first mentioned this, I thought she was kidding. Isn’t it practically biblical for a woman to take her husband’s name when she gets married? The answer, surprisingly, is no!! It’s western tradition, but it’s not biblical.
When we first got married, Sam and I really wrestled with the name change (some of you may remember that I blogged about it). We wanted to be able to represent the uniqueness and individuality which God gave to us both while also representing the oneness. But how could we represent both of our identities, both of our ethnicities and both of our backgrounds? He didn’t want me to give up my name. I didn’t want him to give up his name. But practically speaking, it seemed much better to have the same last name.
In our marriage, there is mutual submission because we believe in Biblical equality (Eph 5:21). Each spouse has equal footing in all aspects of marriage. We have equal value and equal input in everything. When one of us sees a need, that one fills it. If dishes need to be washed and Mary Ann is tied up, I’ll do them, and vice versa. (Most of the time, we do it together because we love spending that time together.) The same goes for laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping — everything. We make all decisions together, big or small. If we’re stuck at an impasse, we’ll talk it through until we’re at mutual agreement. I have no desire or need for veto power (which by the way, I think that “veto power” is a terrible idea if you want harmony in your relationship). I am no better, smarter, privileged, or more valuable than she is, nor she than I. God made us equally in His image, and we are both intrinsically valued.
So because we are equals, when it came to deciding what to do about our last name, I had to humbly ask myself who was I to say that Mary Ann had to drop her last name and take mine? It’s the same effect as asking of myself, would I be willing to drop my last name and take hers? That thought didn’t sit well with me when I thought about it initially, because it made me realize how drastic of a change it is to lose your last name. The dilemma we faced was, whose name would be dropped? We eventually realized that there was a way to not have to drop either last name but, rather, to include them both.
Most people (Christians, mainly) don’t really think twice about having the woman change her name. And if Sam was a lesser man, he might have set his manhood on a need to brand me with his name. However, his determination in our having an “inclusive name” (he coined that phrase) despite the challenges and difficulties of changing his name (with the California legal system) and whatever flak he may incur from traditionalists has augmented my admiration of him as a man. Through this journey, I have learned that he is unflappable in his purpose when he is certain about a course of action, he is confident in who he is as one who answers only to God and not anyone else, and he is secure in his manhood. He has made me adore him even more so than ever, and I am so proud to share a name with him.
A few weeks ago, he and I both officially changed our name. We both added the other’s surname to our own to make an inclusive name (someone else would call it ‘hyphenated’).
We decided on her surname first and then mine because it has a nice ring to it. I like it. Not only does it represent both of our identities, but it also represents our new family — a product of diversity and a blending of two cultures.