“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet, pondering sadly how her beloved Romeo’s family name was so at odds with her own. I can relate to this dilemma. Born under the name Wolfe became a source of mixed feelings as I got older.
Wolfe – my maiden name – created several controversies for me growing up. But, if given the choice of a pet between other wild animals, such as the lion or the bear (David’s foes), I’d choose the wolf. Loyal mates and marvelous parents, wolves are characterized by the personality of their pack. Numerous studies of wolves have been completed at Yellowstone National Park, as part of conservation efforts to preserve them. These have revealed that only rogue wolves kill for the sake of killing. Nor are they ravenous when the ecosystem supports their feeding. Known for skilled team effort in hunting, the eat as a team, too, sharing the spoil with all the pack, not just those who hunted but also those who watched the den and the cubs. Their social structure is complex, elegant and defined. An alpha wolf will take a mate, who usually becomes the beta wolf, but if the alpha dies, the beta will often take over as alpha. This is only one example of the many complex, sensible structures of wolf society that makes them both loving and strong. When it comes to their families, wolves are very self-sacrificing, and both father or mother wolf are known to fast rather than let their cubs go hungry. Wolves have been known to adopt abandoned baby animals of other species, nurse them and raise them. Lone wolves are in fact very rare and will usually be absorbed by a pack eventually. Like people, wolves would rather not be alone. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that some dog breeds are descended from wolves, and we all know dogs are cool, right?
And yet, the bible has little if anything good to say about the wolf, or the dog, for that matter. It’s not like wolves are singled out for slander – snakes get a very bad rap as well. Lions are often characterized as ravenous, cruel and heartless. I think most of us know that these references are meant to be symbolic. One giveaway of this is the way that lions have another identity, being a symbol of holy boldness and even of the Lord Himself, the Lion of Judah!
Hollywood hasn’t done much better by the wolf. From werewolves to the series, Raised by Wolves, there just hasn’t been much good said about them. Though I did like the werewolves in Twilight. They were different, just as the vampires are in that series. But that’s another article. I have to say the giant wolves that come and pick people up for a ride to Great Wolf Lodge make quite a wonderful commercial, as well. But I’m not holding out great hopes for an improvement of the wolf’s image.
I suppose it could have been worse. I could have been named Rattler or Viper. Nothing is more identified with the satan than a snake. And yet, I have had friends with pet snakes, and while I personally wouldn’t want one, I appreciate that they are one of God’s creatures. It’s not their fault that this was the form the devil decided to take, and to a degree Jesus redeemed them when he told us to be wise as serpents.
The most important issue with my name growing up, however, was that it is Jewish. I never dreamed this would be an issue. I grew up around my Christian relatives more than my Jewish ones; so I was surprised when anti-semitism reared its ugly head toward and around me. Writing in the 1920s, Agatha Christie wrote of one of her characters who turned out to be the hero of the story, yet who had a definitively Jewish last name, that he was of “unfortunate ancestry”. I’m almost ashamed to disclose this but I think it really needs to be said that as a female, being a “Wolfe” was sometimes misconstrued by hopeful teenage boys. It was not always fun to be a wolfe on the playground. I mean, give me a break! What a bunch of heathens. And can I add that it was even a problem in bible school. But that was long ago, before the awakening to our Judaic roots among Christian circles.
So how to own the name Wolfe as a Christian? While my last name is now Read, I refuse to leave the name Wolfe behind. Like many Jews under Hitler’s regime, I refuse to bow to unclean prejudice and hide my identity. I am a Wolfe. In fact it’s precious to me, because it’s really a beautiful name when I think of all it symbolizes. It’s the name my friends used when they dubbed me “Wolfie”. And it’s the name my father bore, the man I have loved more than almost any other in this world.
Enter the imprint DayWolfe. In case you are not familiar with it, the reference “day” comes from I Thess 5 which says that we are not children of the darkness or the night, but of the day, the light. A Day Wolfe speaks of one who has been redeemed, it speaks of a God-given identity in Christ. And it speaks of my Judaism. It carries the connotations of loyalty and fealty, kindness and compassion, teamwork and passion demonstrated by wolves toward their fellow wolves, with few exceptions. All qualities of the Holy Spirit, by the way. And in a way, it is a constant reminder to choose to walk and to write in the Holy Spirit’s light which indwells me. In Christ, I am indeed a Day Wolfe. Nice to meet you.