That's right. I swore I would not change my last name - not even hyphenate it. I have become so accustomed to my maiden name that calling myself by any other name seemed like . . . how did I describe it? Oh, yes: "an assault on my identity." Naturally I am grinning as I write this. The sentiment just smacks of smug rebellion and self-love. Needless to say, I no longer feel this way about changing my last name. Let's just be clear: there is nothing wrong with keeping one's last name, or hyphenating a last name upon getting married. The problem instead lies within the heart. I don't want to directly quote anyone here, but if you surf the net on your own, you will undoubtedly come across three general reasons women give for not taking their husband's last name:
1. We're both getting married. Why should I take his name? Why doesn't he take mine?
2. That tradition was (allegedly) based on a patriarchal system which symbolized that a woman was the man's property.
3. It would interrupt my career and create all sorts of confusion in my personal life.
The practice of taking your husband's last name has often been associated with Western "patriarchal" culture, but it is more specifically tied to Christianity because it is symbolic of the transformation that takes place when a person is born again. Just as a bride and groom promise to "forsake all others," we reject our former lives when we become born again. We call ourselves Christians to symbolize that we now belong to Christ:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)The fact that I swore I'd never change my name because I wanted to cling to my identity showed where my heart was. The Christian life is precisely about forsaking one's old identity in order to embrace a new identity. Granted, a marriage is merely a temporal symbol of the greater thing: eternal union with the Lord, but what are we saying to our husbands when we refuse to take their last names, or insist on clinging to our own names?
Let me stress again that this is a symbolic procedure. If you do not change your last name or if you decide to hyphenate, God will not be displeased with you. In fact, in many cultures (particularly in Latin families) it is customary to hyphenate last names as a way of acknowledging the unity of both families. The stress again is on the condition of one's heart when one makes such a decision. If I insist on maintaining my own identity, I am essentially clinging to self. A love of self cannot be good for my walk with God or for my marriage. We are called as Christians to die to self. There is no more room for "me." In marriage, we exchange "me" for "we." In the Christian life, we exchange "me" for "Thee."
When all else fails, we may want to consider dropping our maiden names in the event that our stubborn desire to hyphenate results in one of these unfortunate combinations. (Warning: Content in this link may be mildly offensive to some readers, but I believe it makes a point!)