The Family Name

Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are barren simply because God, in His wisdom, has not given them a spouse. Thank you, Rev. Michael Mohr, for sharing this perspective on the barrenness of a single man:

Dissolve – v.i. 1.) to be mixed thoroughly into solution; 2.) to disband or cease to exist. Used in heraldry and genealogy to denote the end of a surname or house because of the lack of male heirs.

For as long as history has been written, it has been the duty of a son to continue the family name by producing the next generation, preferably through a son who can carry that name on to another, coming generation. I learned the importance of family at a young age, attending family reunions and having to introduce myself –  “I am Michael, son of Gale, son of Theodore, son of George.” Growing up, it was just annoying that all of my cousins on Dad’s side of the family were girls. But as I grew older, I realized that if my family name was to survive this generation, that responsibility fell primarily to me.

I am growing even older now, and I realize that my opportunities to carry out that duty are growing fewer and fewer. God has not yet brought into my life a wife. I slowly come to the reality that even if God should grant me a wife, we are reaching past the age when it would be safe for her to bear children. I cannot but feel that I have failed my duty as a son. I have failed my father, my uncles, my grandfather, my great-grandfather. I have failed them all to keep the family name alive.

As a pastor, I have conducted many baptisms. When I come to the portion of the service where the child is to be named, I always use the given names of the child, never the surname. Some patriarchs would get rather upset not to hear their family name called upon at the baptismal font. That is when I remind them that we are all children of God at the font. I continue to use those given names every time we come before God – confirmations, weddings, funerals, and in prayers. Always the given name – the Christian name – never the surname. There is no family but the family of God.

And so it strikes me that God is teaching me in my barrenness (the barrenness of being single) what I have been trying to teach my parishioners: that we are dissolved, fully absorbed into the family of God in our baptism. It is not the generations that follow, to whom we give our earthly names, that secure our immortality. It is solely because of Him from whom we have been given our name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that our name will not dissolve, but endure for all eternity.

Rev. Michael Mohr