My newest baby niece has a strange and spangly name: Ariel Salina. Splashy names are kind of her parents’ M.O. The two siblings closest in age to Ariel Salina are Kingston Emmanuel and Stella Evangeline--big names for infants, but names that those two, ages five and seven, are filling out just fine.
I’ve never had to name a baby but I imagine that the responsibility comes with a lot of pressure. A name is like a prophecy in the way of the old Hebrew patriarchs, a hand resting on the crown of the head. Stella Evangeline means “star” and “bringer of good news.” Kingston Emmanuel means “King’s territory” and “God with us.” Ariel Salina means “lioness of God” and “salt,” as in “salt and light,” as in Jesus saying to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”
Ariel Salina is all squishy loose chub with a sweet grouch face. Only a few days ago did I finally meet her in person, and yet she--or her name--has been on my mind for months. I hope she is a lioness. I hope she is salt, a preserving agent in a world gone to rot. We need that these days. Listening to the news makes my heart quiver. I can’t even get properly angry about the state of politics, race relations, poverty, violence, or terrorism because I witness the same coming out of me every day in egotism, apathy, selfishness, and self-righteousness. I am thirty-two and rabbit-hearted.
In a different generation or geography, Christians are more strident, reverent, and truthful. In turn, though, probably also less sensitive and self-aware. I haven’t yet learned how to be unapologetic without shutting people out. But salt asserts itself just by being what it is, and the decay won’t stop decaying while I wrestle with the nuances of my religious expression. I can’t expect Arie to grow up and live up to her name on my behalf. Salt is salty. The world can’t wait.