As many of you know, our family grew a little larger on October 17 with the birth of Benjamin Young. As you also know, our family, while bigger, is still incomplete as we continue to mourn the loss of our dear Silas, who would have turned one today. Some will say that having Benjamin (Benji) makes it all better. They think that Benji can in some way erase all the pain of losing Silas; that our grief will be erased by the birth of our second son.
That’s simply not the case.
In the Old Testament, the name someone has says a lot about that person. Names weren’t simply chosen because they sounded nice or because no one else was using it. Names were given because of a certain characteristic of the person. We see this all over the Old Testament. One example is the name Job which means both “persecuted, and hated” as well as “where is the divine presence?”. Both meanings have a lot to tell us about the person and the experience of Job. His name wasn’t simply a fad. It meant something.
Bekah and I have tried to name our two sons similarly. We didn’t want names that simply sounded nice or that were “in”. We wanted names that meant something. With Silas, we liked that it was a biblical name and that Silas was one of Paul’s missionary companions in Acts. Silas would be our companion in missions as well. The name fit. It had a meaning not only in and of itself but in our own personal experience.
So, when it came time to name our second son, our need for a meaningful name was only more important to us. We wanted a name that was true to our experience as a family. Several stories in the Bible stand out as examples of people who lost children, struggled with barrenness or the like. Each name had its draw, but one name stood out against the rest.
In Genesis, the storytellers tell us that as Benjamin was born his mother, Rachel, died. In her dying breath, however, she is able to get out the name she desires for her son, Ben-Oni.
The son of sorrow.
That name made sense to us. While the arrival of Benjamin brings much joy and celebration to our lives, it also carries with it a cloud of sorrow. In our sorrow we bore Benjamin. He is a son of our sorrow.
As you can see, however, we didn’t name our son Ben-Oni, but Benjamin. Jacob, either in a moment of patriarchal butt-headedness or of profound wisdom, changed Ben-Oni’s name to Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.”
While our Benjamin was born in a moment of sorrow, his life will be his own and will not be marked by that sorrow. I’m sure that Jacob was grieved at the loss of his beloved wife, Rachel, and I’m sure that the name Ben-Oni rang true for him, but that is only part of the story. Benjamin was not only a son of sorrow, but he was to be the son of Jacob’s right hand, the son on whom Jacob relied and trusted. Was he a son of sorrow and of pain? Of course, but that did not define who he would be.
Benji, you too are a son of our sorrow, a son who has come forth in a moment of intense pain for us, but you are also your own person and our pain does not define your story; it just forms part of it. You already have brought us unbelievable joy and happiness, and we look forward to many years with you at our right hand.