Below the hill.
That is what my Japanese last name means in English. My name is unusual, even for Japanese, so out of curiosity, I am often asked the meaning. After I translate it, I joke with the questioner that my ancestors were probably ditch diggers, undoubtedly serving their families. In truth, my last name does not evoke noble themes and reveals nothing about myself or my family. However, no one is ever offended by it. My naivete about names changed several years ago when I met a colleague who had an unusual last name-Sharobiem.
I did not know much about his ethnic origins nor did I know about the county from where his family had emigrated. Thankfully, he filled in the blanks. “In my home country, people would often ask me, ‘What is your last name?’ It is their way to identify what area or religion I am.”
“And what does your last name mean?”
“It is our language’s version of the same word in English. It means seraphim.”
Seraphim! The Hebrew word is found many times in the Old Testament. They are generally depicted as heavenly winged beings, usually in attendance with God, the Father, as illustrated in this passage from Isaiah.
…I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him; they each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies; his glory fills the whole earth.
Isaiah 6:1-3 (CSB)
I learned that my colleague was a Christian from the Arab world. Although he belonged to a minority in a region dominated by Muslims, he was proud of his name and Christian heritage. However, his fellow countrymen did not share his joy. The question, “What is your last name?” was intended to expose and isolate Christians. The persecution he faced led him to gather his family, leave his country, and come to America.
The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God—the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God—and my new name.
Revelation 3:12 (CSB)
Unlike my colleague, my last name gives no clue to my spiritual identity. I admired the courage and faith that he has to boldly represent Jesus Christ. Someday, in Heaven, God will reward him and all believers in Christ for their faithfulness and we will be given a new name. Until then, all believers in Jesus Christ should proclaim their faith in the only Name under Heaven and Earth by which we may find salvation.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.