May You Wrestle with God

I will make the introduction brief, as I know you all have been waiting plenty long enough for the revealing of our son’s new name!  We are thrilled to be able to share this part of our journey with you, as God’s hands have been all over the naming of this sweet boy.

We were given many suggestions and much advice about his name, and we did take all things into consideration, but what it came down to in the end was that there are two names that were very clearly meant for our son, and those are the ones he has.  We are so thankful that God guided this decision, because we really were clueless about how to name him!  So much so that our facilitator had to call us and ask us for the name *that night* so she could turn in our court application.

Talk about feeling rushed!  But as soon as we sat down and began to think of the ways that God was nudging us, his name actually came quite easily and with little effort.  With that said, we are very pleased to announce the new name of our oldest son…

Jacob William

I suppose first I’ll get all of the why’s and how’s out of the way before I talk to you about the beautifully appropriate meaning of this name.  The first thing you might notice is the absence of his birth name here.  Truthfully, before travelling, we were actually planning on keeping “Juri” as that is what everyone had grown accustomed to calling him and we did like it.

But once we arrived we learned that his name did not have the same significance as our Zhanna Hope’s name.  It was given by a random nurse at the hospital that day and when we could not determine whether or not he was actually baptized with it, our minds began to change on the matter.  Suddenly this name that he had always been called didn’t hold any sentimental, spiritual or historical significance for us.  It seemed more like a placeholder, something to call an orphan boy who nobody wanted.

We had the nannies ask him if he wanted to keep his name or change it and he simply replied that he didn’t know what he wanted to be called.  Of course, perhaps he didn’t understand the question, and how could you ask a six year old to make such a decision?  But we felt that his answer was more of a confirmation to our thinking, and we moved forward with that decision.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun part!  How did God give us the names he does have?  Jacob, obviously, is his father’s name.  Neither of us ever had any inclination to have children named after us.  It seemed uncomfortable to name a person after yourself, and wouldn’t that just get confusing?  But this was very clear to us after the dream Jake had that led us to this child in the first place.  In the dream I called him Jacob, and that was a comfort to the scared little boy.

As we discussed it here in-country, what a gift you give to an adopted child by naming him after his father.  In this country children don’t have middle names like they do here, they have patronymic names, their middle name is their father’s first name.  Our son’s given patronymic name was totally made up, as no one knew who his father actually was!  For the first time in his life he will actually carry the true name of his earthly father.

In our country, many boys share their father’s first name, and it is usually the firstborn who receive that privilege.  Adopted children receive this honor far less commonly, especially if they are adopted after a son has already been born to the family.  But God preserved that name for this child, for our oldest son.  The name Jacob is culturally significant on both sides of the Atlantic, and as he grows we pray it will give him comfort and confidence that he is truly our son and a part of our family forever.

William is also a significant, familial name.  When we had a birthday fundraiser back in November, we gave everyone who participated an opportunity to suggest a name; a list that we would choose from for his middle name.  My dear sister chose William, and as we scanned the list, that one made the most sense with Jacob preceding it.  They went well together.

In addition, Jake’s grandfather (who passed away a couple years ago) was named William.  Evangeline and Stephen both bear middle names for dear grandparents who passed away around the time of their entrance into the world.  This grandfather is the only one who has passed so far that did not have a namesake from our children.  Now he does, and our son’s middle name matches the formula of both our biological children, strengthening those connections as we bind him to our family.

Jacob William… that is how the name came about.  And while that is all very interesting, the meaning of his name is even more powerful.  Jacob means “one who supplants,” or takes the place of another.  William means “determined protector” or “strong-willed warrior” depending on how you translate it.  When I first put these two meanings together I didn’t like them much, they did nothing for me, really.  (I guess that just goes to show it isn’t about me!)

But as I have pondered them more, they are so perfect for our son.  A supplanter, a person who rises up to take a position that was never meant for him.  An orphan who takes the position of eldest son?  That fits!  And doesn’t if fit all of us?  Are we not orphans whom God has chosen to become firstborn sons in His Kingdom?  I never knew why the name Jacob was given to the father of the Nation of Israel, yes it was changed but… couldn’t he have been born something better?  More honorable?

No… because none of us are born good or honorable.  We are bestowed goodness and honor and made sons of the King through the adoption – through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ.  What a fitting name for this child, who was born unwanted, unloved, lost and alone… who is now wanted, loved, found and coming home.

Through no strength or merit of his, and perhaps even unbeknownst to him in this moment, his life is changing radically.  He is the supplanter of what this world would have determined him to be.  He has overcome his status as an orphan and has been made a firstborn son.  Now doesn’t that sound a lot like you and me?  Oh the truths God is teaching me through my dear children.

And William!  What a glorious name, with such deep meaning and such great hope.  This child will be our beloved son no matter what.  We have no expectations of him whatsoever, and that is the way it should be!  But hopes?  Dreams?  Yes we do have those, and this name sums it up so perfectly.

Strong-willed, determined, that is what we hope for him.  That he will have the determination to overcome his years of loneliness and neglect.  That he will have the desire to throw off the limitations of his disability and rise above it.  Children coming from institutionalized settings have so much baggage and trauma to work through – they are survivors!  And that is what we hope for our sweet boy, not just that he will survive the trauma of his first six years, but that he will thrive in spite of all that has been taken from him.

And what might that determination and strong-will bestow on him?  He will be a warrior, a protector in our family.  This little boy who cannot yet even walk, may he grow up to be a strong, capable, protective older brother for his siblings.  I have every hope that he will, and what beautiful confirmation God has given me of that.

In Jake’s dream last year, he said to the scared little boy I had placed in his lap: “Is your name Jacob?  That’s my name too!  You know what our name means?  It means the angels in heaven are watching out for us special because God loves us even though we wrestle with him.”  Amen.  Amen.  Amen.

A foggy, uncertain past, a difficult and trying future, a life of grief and loss packed into such tender years, a disability that has shaped so much of his life… our Jacob will have much to wrestle God about as he grows.  And this is good; it is a blessing to wrestle with God.  Because if we are honest with ourselves, none of us truly have His heart or can read His mind.  We all have bones to pick with our Creator, not because of His shortcomings, but because of our own and our limited understanding.

Is it better to sit and stew and curse our Lord for His unknowable ways?  Or shall we boldly take up our place as sons and go to Him directly?  It is better to wrestle.  It is blessed to wrestle with God.  And God will love us through all of it, and He will bestow grace and mercy on His struggling children.

Or as my husband so eloquently put it in his dream… the angels in heaven will watch out for us special because God loves us even though we wrestle with him.  Welcome to the family Jacob William, may we be fit guides for you as you take your new, esteemed place in our household, and may you take up your new role with courage, strength and love.  May you never become discouraged or despondent when hardship assails you, but as the brave warrior you are, may you boldly wrestle with God.  And may He bless you for it.



  1. Tasha Schriewer says:

    Perfect….I love it!! What an exciting time. We are just thrilled for your family. Sending hugs and prayers <3

  2. Perfect name!

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