The decision to return to my maiden name after the end of my 21-year marriage was a harrowing one. On the one hand, it was my identity. I built a career as Stephanie Barnes Taylor. It is on all of my licenses, certifications and professional degrees. Then there was the practical decision around the literal challenges that changing a name brings. I would have to redo all of my legal documents. I would have to redo a recent rebranding of StephanieBarnesTaylor.com and I would run the risk of being lost in the search engine.
It was also the connection to my sons. I never wanted to have a last name different than that of my children. They are all that is left of our marriage. And through them our love lives on. But when I remarry…and I will find love again…I would change my name and our last names would be different anyway.
And then there was the connection to him. I had spent over half of my life as his wife. We married when I was 22 and I changed much about me because I loved him so. I wanted to be what he wanted. And that's how love works in many regards. When you love someone, you are no longer just an individual, but a part of and connected to someone else. But sometimes the change can be so fundamentally in conflict with the core of who you are. Sometimes the conflict is intentional and other times it is simply the product of growth. In a perfect world, you evolve with the one you love. But the world is not perfect. In the end, who I am and who he needs are not the same. And that's how love changes sometimes. Sometimes we evolve together and other times we evolve apart.
Regardless of the reasons that led to the end of our marriage, I am no longer his wife. So why should I keep his name? The emotional part of me wanted to sever all ties to him. Making a decision in relation to how I feel about him is not a power move. My healing could never be rooted in him. That would give him too much power and would reduce my own. Healing is born in your own power. The power of choice. The power to be who you are. And the power to make decisions that are aligned with God's will for your life and not a response to what someone has done to you. Far too often we place too much power in man…as a whole and in the men we love. One thing that the disintegration of my 21-year marriage taught me is that my joy could never be centered around a man, regardless of how good or bad he is or how much he loves me or does not. True joy is not man-made, but God made. I could never be truly joyful with a man until my joy was based in me.
My decision to change my name was the ultimate power move. But it is not about getting rid of him, but getting back to me. The past three years have been quite tumultuous in terms of professional and personal change and loss. In the midst of a season of loss, dejection, and disruption, I embraced my Damascus moment…being knocked off my horse. I had no idea that I would eventually be kicked in the chest by the divorce. Nonetheless, I embraced a symbolic name change. While sitting in a conference in Atlanta in April 2015, I sent a text to a friend that said, "I was on the road to Damascus and God knocked me off my horse. He has changed my name and is working miracles in me and through me. Thank you for being my burning bush!" On the way home, I did a Periscope on disruptive elevation based on the same theme. Later, I wrote about blog piece about how "Saul was blinded to his old ways and opened his eyes to a new name, a new life, and a new purpose—the purpose that was his destiny from the beginning. If he had never been knocked off his horse, he would have never been elevated to his purpose. He would have never become Paul".
In November 2016, on the way home from Atlanta once more, I embraced a literal name change that would make my Damascus moment complete. I had dropped the divorce settlement off with my attorney just days before in preparation for our filing. The solemnity of that action was a crystallization of the reality that our marriage was ending. And even though our love story deserved a better ending, it deserved to end. As I sat in my hotel room alone, I really embraced the fact that I was about to be one rather than two. I had a speaking engagement where I was to give remarks for 7 minutes as part of a panel. I had not prepared remarks and I asked God to breathe through me and give me words to speak. He did. I shared for the first time publicly that I was divorcing. It was powerful to say those words aloud. I was not ashamed. I was not sad. I was not afraid. I spoke my reality in a room full of people. It was not a sad story, but a testimony. What should have crushed me served as a foundation for my rise.
Later, that evening on the ride home, I reflected on the past two years and the changes and challenges I was facing. I am at a precipice in my life. I have been knocked off my horse. I can either lay down and perish or rise up and be transformed. I believe in a God of transformation. I realized that my Damascus moment was complete. And with it, came a new life, a new me, and a new beginning. So, to fully embrace this renaissance, I decided to change my name to celebrate the power of rising after being knocked off my horse. I am Stephanie D. Barnes.
I told Jesus, it would be all right it would be alright if he changed my name.