I used to hate my name.
I spent most of my life hearing ‘names are important’, ‘names have meaning’, ‘names are valuable’. So I asked my parents why they named me Ashley.
I knew what my sister’s name meant: Katherine ‘pure and clear’. Beautiful.
I knew what my brother’s name meant: Justin ‘just, upright, righteous’. Now that’s a meaning with a punch of purpose.
Mine? Sure I knew mine too: Ashley ‘from the Ash Tree’. Uh…what?
My sister worked as a missionary. A teacher of children. A spiritual guidepost for kids and teens.
My brother became a lawyer.
What was I supposed to be? I can’t grow a plant to save my life. I even killed Bamboo.
Okay, I know what your thinking. I don’t actually believe our names control our destiny, but I do see a correlation between names and purpose and I think God is pretty clear about that too.
So you know what my parents told me when I asked them? They told me Ashley was a pretty name and, at the time, unique.
I struggled to see purpose in that. Especially since the 1980s saw such an explosion of baby Ashley’s that I was always one of 3 Ashleys in my class.
Frustrated, I grew irritated every time the Bible recorded or mentioned purposeful naming because, to be honest, I felt left out.
I know that’s irrational.
I know my parents didn’t mean anything by it.
Over analytical, as always, my name and identity felt empty. Hollow. Meaningless.
Until I started to look at it differently. It’s probably why I love subtext as much as I do. When I started seeing myself as multidimensional, it opened up a new perspective and it helped me see my identity much more clearly.
People sometimes call me Ash.
What an image that puts in your mind. Useless grey dust. Gross.
Except, ash isn’t useless.
I’ve always had a fascination with the phoenix. Somewhere along the process of growing, maturing and finding my identity, I realized that ashes actually hold potential. power, beauty and subtext.
You see, a phoenix has a unique talent. It goes through trials, but what appears to be the biggest trial of all, death, never actually destroys a phoenix. Instead, when this mythical bird bursts into flames and collapses in what appears to be a useless pile of ash, it rebirths a new phoenix–it’s still the same bird, but it’s different. New. Not destroyed, revitalized.
And did you know that Ash tress are actually used as symbols in ancient mythology? Guess what they symbolize? Yep, rebirth and revitalization.
JRR Tolkein said, “from the ashes a fire shall be woke. A light from the shadows shall spring.”
From ugly to beauty.
From dark to light.
From the ashes.
From the Ashley.
What better destiny could a person ask for than to wake a fire where there was nothing seemingly worth saving?
I am a fire reviver.
I am a phoenix.
Now, I embrace to perspcetive shifts that help me see beauty where there was once only grey dust.
And I couldn’t do that if I weren’t