-->© 2015 David's Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the names, attributes, or backgrounds of any real persons, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, because in real life, being happy to find out your husband murdered his first wife in cold blood would NEVER happen, right?
My maternal grandmother was a Norwegian powerhouse we grandchildren called Munna. Since I was the youngest and lived the closest to her, I spent the most time with her. Just as Ragnar Lothbrok was the scourge of France and England, Munna was the scourge of Passaic County, New Jersey, and grammar slackers everywhere.
Munna, for fun, would correct the grammar and spelling on any junk mail she received and return it to the sender in hopes they would amend their slacking ways. She lived in a senior citizen building where each resident had a numbered, assigned parking spot. Even though these were clearly marked throughout the parking lot, visitors to the building would often park in the residents’ parking spots. Whenever someone parked in Munna’s parking spot, she would block the offender’s car in with her car and go to her apartment. Usually in short order, the building security guard would knock on Munna’s apartment door, accompanied by the driver of the car in Munna’s parking spot. Munna would then read the culprit the Riot Act. Let me tell you, you have never been guilt-mongered until you’ve been Munna guilt-mongered. She once chewed out a pastor who parked in her parking spot in such bloody fashion as to make “300” look like a paper cut.
Probably my favorite memories of Munna were when she took me to the local libraries for the free movie programs. Everyone else in attendance was at least 60 years older than me, so I became everyone’s surrogate grandchild. It was at these gatherings of retired sexa-, septua-, and octogenarians that I developed both an irrational - yet at the same time completely healthy - fear of polyester clothing and sensible shoes. It was also at these gatherings that I first saw what would become my favorite movie of all time.
Rebecca, which came out in 1940 was based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. Now, because of the Hays Code, Alfred Hitchcock had to modify the script in one key area, but mostly he was able to stay true to the source material.
The novel is about a young woman who marries an older, wealthy aristocrat after only knowing him for two weeks. (Dear Readers, please don’t marry someone you barely know, lest you want to be the headlining act of either a Hitchcock film or an episode of “Forensic Files,” and for all the wrong reasons, too.) After their whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo and a few more weeks of honeymooning, Max de Winter takes his new young bride to his British estate, Manderley. This is usually where the fairy tale ends, but du Maurier’s magnum opus then weaves a terrifying tale representative of all great Gothic novels. Mrs. de Winter Number Two soon learns about Rebecca, Maxim’s late first wife, who died under mysterious circumstances and whose presence overshadows everyone and everything at the manor. The reader goes from page to page experiencing increasing suspicion. Was Rebecca murdered? Was she really still alive? Was she a ghost or evil spirit out to haunt the living and torment the woman she believed was trying to take her place?
Maxim’s new wife spends a good part of the story feeling conspicuously insecure about her predecessor - that she can’t measure up, that Maxim wishes Rebecca were still alive - and working herself up into an emotional frenzy about Rebecca, whom she sees as her nemesis and main competitor for Maxim’s affections.
*SIDE NOTE/SPOILER ALERT*
After Rebecca’s body is discovered, Maxim confesses to his new bride that he hated Rebecca because of her cruelty and infidelity and, upon her telling him she was pregnant with her cousin’s child, Maxim shot and killed her. Our female protagonist doesn’t bat an eyelash that the man she married just admitted to committing uxoricide. She is just positively giddy that he really didn’t love his first wife, and that on top of marrying him when she knew bupkis about him. Dear Female Readers, please be smarter than our female protagonist.
Daphne du Maurier, remarkable raconteuse that she was, used some ingenious literary techniques to help add the air of mystery. For one, she named the novel after Rebecca, not the second wife. Next, to show how much Rebecca’s memory drove the main characters, du Maurier never names the new wife.
Names are funny things. In American society we usually choose names by what sounds nice to us. In Bible times, names had great significance. Names meant something. Sometimes a person’s name reflected the hope the parent had for the child’s future. Other times, as in the case of Benoni and Jabez, they are a monument to the parent’s wounds or disappointments.
All of us have a name we are trying to either live up to or live down. Thankfully, for the children of God, He doesn’t leave us to the names we were or weren’t given.
Jacob had a rough start. The second-born son in a Middle Eastern culture, he was persona non grata. He was called “supplanter” at birth, and that name set the tone for the beginning of his life.
The start of Jacob’s story shows that he lived up to his name. He cheated his brother. He lied to his father. He cheated his uncle. His name was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy - until He wrestled with God.
I had read the story of Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord many times, but it wasn’t until I read it in The Amplified Bible that it really hit home.
Genesis 32:24-28 says, “And Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when [the Man] saw that He did not prevail against [Jacob], He touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. Then He said, ‘Let Me go, for day is breaking.’ But [Jacob] said, ‘I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing upon me.’ [The Man] asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, ‘Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!’ And He said, ‘Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God]; for you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed.’”
To Jacob, his name wasn’t just what he went by to his family and friends. It was his identity of which he was painfully aware every day of his life, and an encounter with God changed all that. However, it wasn’t just Jacob’s name that got changed that day. When God changes our names, He changes His own name. From that point forward, God was no longer “the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac.” He became “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” More importantly, He became “the God of Israel.” When I gave my life to God during a blistering summer in 1987, He changed my name to “child of God,” and He changed His Name to “the God of Sharon.”
What is the name you want have or the one you want to shed? Maybe you are like the second Mrs. de Winter, and the name you’re looking for is Beloved. Cherished. Valuable. Maybe you are like Jacob and are trying to eschew some negative eponym like Stupid. Worthless. Troublemaker. Unwanted. Disappointment.
God is still in the name-changing business, and He does it in a way that could make even the Master of Suspense envious.
Hebrews 11:16 (The Amplified Bible)-“But the truth is that they were yearning for and aspiring to a better and more desirable country, that is, a heavenly [one]. For that reason God is not ashamed to be called their God [even to be surnamed their God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], for He has prepared a city for them.”