The whole keeping my first name after Baptism was a huge problem for me. While I was born with a Christian name, I wasn’t given it for Christian reasons, but for political reasons, and nor was I baptised with that Christian name anyway. I didn’t ever particular identify with the name, and especially not as a Christian.
In my family I am not known by my first name, but a nickname I was given in the first few months after birth: I am not saying what it is. So this was even more reason to not carry it (my first name) into my Baptism. My middle name is an OT name so I considered that but again, I never identified with it.
While as a child I was always fascinated with the Book of Jonah. I used to have vivid dreams about being swallowed by whales, and they were never nightmares, always adventures. I also loved the whale section of Pinocchio.
So when my Priest gave me a Baptism date, and it was the day after the Greek Jonah day (21st September), and on the Slavic Jonah day (22nd of September): it seemed obvious to me that it was my name. I always loved the name John, and Jonah seemed to instantly fit when I considered it. I found it very easy and natural to be referred to as it, and also to self-refer to with it.
I prayed to Jonah many times throughout my life, and my life has been full of moments of feeling utterly swallowed by the mere experience of being and wanting to run away or disappear. One thing I always struggled with is having a really strong devotion to Christ internally but finding it hard to manifest it externally.
I would often shy away from saying I was Christian, in a sense I was always reluctant to hear my calling or do any preaching myself. I was always happy to be a coward about my faith, and I often thought of the Prophet Jonah when I felt this way.
So, in a sense taking on the Baptismal name Jonah was a death in all the normal ways Baptism is, but also of the lukewarm faith which I so reluctantly shared and preached.
With the name Jonah, the old man died and has been cast into the jaws of death: The Whale. While I live in fear of the Lord: it is not out of fear of Him for He is all merciful and loving, but out of fear of being reluctant, turning back, and betraying the life I have been given by the Lord, and being swallowed up by Death itself because of that cowardice.
So, what I truly fear is not being like the Prophet Jonah who in the end redeemed himself, what I truly fear is being the reluctant Jonah I know I have been for most of my life.
In front of me always is a forked road: the dead Jonah and the Living Jonah; the one of death, the pit, the Whale’s mouth, the runaway coward reluctant Jonah, and the one of Life, the Lord, listening to my Call, and praying to the Great Prophet Jonah that I can be as he was and hear and listen to the Lord and His calling for me.
To the Reader:
Have a Blessed day and may God Bless you and your Family.