Names are funny things. Chosen before much is known about you, most people live a lifetime with their identity hinged to something given to them at the very beginning. I by no means claim to know the best way to go about selecting a name. I know there is a whole host of criteria people go through. Some names are chosen to honor family members. Others are given because of the way they sound or what they mean. Some are chosen because of their popularity while others are chosen for their obscurity. I don’t think there is a certain formula that all parents must go through to get it right. Like many parenting related things, I don’t think there is a “right way.” I only know what the process has been like for us.
As a lover of words, I’m guessing the process of naming a child would’ve been semi-agonizing regardless of how this precious life came to be. I’m sure there always would’ve been a strong desire for meaning, purpose, and story to factor into the final decision. I’m guessing I probably would’ve taken the responsibility of naming another soul far too seriously regardless of what life would’ve been like. I’m guessing my sweet, patient husband likely would have had to talk in circles with me much the way he graciously did the months leading up to Gideon’s birth. Yet something felt particularly unique about the circumstances we were given. The last two years have been filled with so many moments where the prospect of ever having a child to name seemed unlikely. Throughout the entire process of tears, doctor’s appointments, shots, surgeries, difficult phone calls, and waiting, we became more than acutely aware that we are not promised children nor are we entitled to them.
The story of how Gideon came to be is not one that either of us would’ve chosen for ourselves. It is, however, the one divinely and lovingly entrusted to us. This story, already filled with its own share of highs and lows, has shaped Jeremy and I as parents and people so deeply. As a result, we searched for a name that would reflect it. We pray it will continue to shape our precious little boy throughout all of his days.
At so many junctures during this journey I’ve been tempted to take comfort in statistics. I’ve been guilty of asking what the odds of our desired outcome were more often than not. The funny thing is, we weren’t given very good ones at several pivotal moments. Multiple years of trying led to hard doctors appointments of hard results. This led to treatment options with varying percentages and degrees of success rates, all of which failed leading to even lower likelihoods. This in turn led to the difficult decision to pursue an even more invasive course of treatment.
After multiple positive doctor’s appointments at the beginning of our IVF cycle, I remember the temptation to put my trust and hope in science most distinctly. It looked as if our odds were improving with each passing ultrasound. That is, until the actual procedure took place. When I woke up from anesthesia the morning of the retrieval I could immediately tell things didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Jeremy took my hand and told me in the most tender, comforting voice that the numbers we had hoped for were significantly less. Part of me felt as though I had failed. Part of me began to revert back to my natural patterns of anxiety and worry. Yet even through the fear, the Lord brought to mind the words of Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
This verse became especially important as our doctor came in and confirmed what I initially feared. Our numbers were not great and neither were the odds of success. Psalm 20:7 replayed over and over in my mind as we anxiously awaited several scary phone calls throughout the weeks to come. Again and again Jeremy and I had to choose whether or not we would put our hope and trust in statistics and science or if we would put our hope and trust in the Lord–regardless of whether or not we had a child.
While reading the Book of Judges last fall, I was reminded of another man who was asked to trust God rather than numbers. Gideon’s name means “mighty warrior” despite the fact that he is the least of his clan and struggles numerous times to fully trust God. He is mighty only because the Lord is mighty. The most notable battle in Gideon’s life is won through weakness as the Lord reduces the must larger army originally preparing for battle in Judges 7. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me saying, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” Gideon starts the with 32,000 men, by the end of the day, the Lord has whittled the number down to 300. As Tim Keller puts it, “Gideon should look back and think: This victory was God’s not mine. My only part was to trust and obey him. The glory is his, and the privilege is mine…God does not simply work in spite of our weakness, but because of it. He says that his saving power does not work when we are strong or think we are strong—but rather, when we are weak, and know we are.”
Gideon’s story so far has been all about this—God working not when we are strong or think we are strong, not when the numbers or odds were at their best, but God working when we were at our weakest…and know we are.
The story of Gideon is about faith in the midst of doubt, also something that resonates deeply with us. Gideon asks God for multiple signs when asked to trust God with the task God gives him. These signs of God’s past faithfulness spur Gideon on to believe in God’s future grace, yet even at the end of his life Gideon fails miserably. His faith if far from perfect, yet he’s specifically remembered for his faith in Hebrews 11. Like all those listed in this passage and in all of scripture (aside from Jesus), Gideon is a mixed bag of both faith and doubt, obedience and sin. Like us, the power of Gideon’s faith is not about the amount but about the source–who he has faith in. Passages like these that share not just moments of belief, but also moments of doubt encourage us in our own moments of weakness. So many times we pray, “We believe. Help our unbelief.” The story of Gideon and the life of our Gideon from start to finish is all about God’s grace.
Gideon is also a significant name to our family for another reason. Gideon vs. Wainwright is a famous Supreme Court Case that guarantees the right to representation to all those accused of a crime regardless of their ability to pay. This is the cause Gideon’s dad has dedicated his life’s work to as a Public Defender.
Our prayer is that Gideon will know that his strength comes only from the Lord. We hope for him to know his weakness and need for God. We also hope that he would care deeply about justice and rights of the poor and oppressed.
Henry is a family name that honors both of my grandpas. My mom’s father, pictured with Gideon below—Henry Feldkamp—and my dad’s father—Walton Henry Powell—who passed away over a decade ago but whose memory still impacts me greatly today.
Gideon meeting my Grandpa Henry Feldkamp.
Gideon meeting my Grandma Eva whose husband Walton Henry also inspired Gideon’s middle name.