Why it’s taken me this long to feel like a Joan

father and child 2I’ve never felt like a ‘Joan’. When I was younger I was sure I was somebody else. Maybe Sarah, or Danielle or even Joanna. But definitely not Joan.

Now this admission is going to be rather heart-breaking for my father, who hand-picked this name for me. As a boy, my dad spent most of his holidays with an English family on the Isles of Scilly, just off the Cornish coast. My Dutch grand-father decided he wanted his son to learn to speak English and, given that he had business dealings with the bulb-growers on the Islands, Scilly was the perfect place to send his twelve year old son. My dad did indeed learn to speak English, but he gained far more than that. In Scilly, he found a place of remote beauty, of water, boats, history and ship-wrecks. He also found a sense of belonging in the home of the Shorts, whose two sons were about his age; he still calls them his ‘English brothers.’ Then there was of course his beloved ‘English mother’, Joan Short.  Joan was the name that, for Dad, represented all that was lovely, warm and welcoming about Scilly and so he proudly bestowed it on his second daughter.

Knowing all this should have made me–at the very least–appreciate my name. After all, it’s got the rich strands of history and family and friendship woven into it. But as a child, all I knew was that every Joan I‘d ever met was old. No, not just old…ancient (just to drive home this point, Dad’s wonderful Joan Short turned 101 this year!) Apparently the name ranked as the 7th most popular girl’s name in the USA…in 1930. There just weren’t any Joan’s in my generation and I seriously disliked it.

Yet today, for the very first time in my life, I was delighted to be a Joan. In Dear Abba, by Brennan Manning, I read these words, spoken to a man named John (of which Joan is the feminine version, meaning ‘gift of God’)

“Go back and live out your name; live like the beloved of Abba. Some may ask you, but most others will simply observe the way you live. Some will call you crazy, some may even try and silence your voice, but some will stop and wonder. Your courage in living as Abba’s beloved can give others the strength to do the same. For in the end only one thing remains—Abba’s love. John, now it is your turn. Define yourself as one beloved by God.”

My name, it turns out, is a constant reminder that I am the beloved treasure of God, and today I revel in that love and take up the challenge of defining myself as such and then living it out as courageously as I can.

Here’s the thing. Whether your name reminds you of it or not, you too are the cherished child of God. It’s not easy getting our heads around that fact, but maybe understanding doesn’t even have to come into it. All we need to do is accept it, remind ourselves of it as often as necessary and then simply and boldly live as THE BELOVED OF ABBA.                Joyfully Joan

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  1. Dankie Joan, jy daag my uit om my naam wat “ster” beteken te aanvaar – dat dit is wie ek is en veronderstel was om te wees

  2. Adrie Zandbergen

    you put a feather in Dad’s cap

  3. Very special article – just focussing on the importance of being who we are in God’s eyes. Of course for me, I realise more and more that you are a true gift to me!

  4. Such a beautifully written piece, Joan. I went through something similar when I learned my middle name (Renee) meant reborn–it somehow mitigated all those other names that had been attached to me that only reminded me I wasn’t wanted by the people who should want me. Renee–and what it meant spiritually to me–healed those wounds. God’s love–nothing like it.

    • Joan Campbell

      It is beautiful when God ministers to us in such a personal and deep way. Thanks for sharing it with us Lisa.

  5. Beautifully written. Xx.

  6. Roma Thompson

    What a truly lovely article, Joan. I haven’t commented for a long time, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate everything you post. Thank you.

  7. That is beautiful Joan. I love that quote. Maybe I should get the book.

  8. Love love love the meaning behind names. I chose both my daughters’ names because of their meaning. I’m so glad you have found peace and joy in your name! xx

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