Women have been taking the man’s last name when marrying for years. My grandmother did this, my mother did this. Women I work with, those I went to school with and ladies at my church did this. Name changing has always been what you do. I’ve never been one to do anything just because, “it’s what you do.” When preparing for marriage to my best friend, I had to make the decision whether or not I would change my last name. I certainly wasn’t going to change my name just because society told me I needed to. I wanted to make an informed and meaningful decision. I wanted to have purpose behind my choice and believe in what I was doing.
When asking others why American women take their husbands last name (because this isn’t something done in all cultures), many women note that it’s out of respect for their husband. I personally feel I can respect my husband much more by the way I treat him on a daily basis, than by replacing my name with his. Since I began seminary a few years ago, my desire has been to live my life Biblically in all things. I’ve learned some of the Christian ‘rules’ or social practices that we as Christians follow are actually cultural and not Biblical. It’s been interesting to learn what things we do that we call “Christian” that are not necessarily in the Bible, but have been established by conservative-Christian culture. Thus, when asking the question, “is changing my name Biblical?” And “is it respectful to my husband according to the Bible to change my name?” Both answers were no. No where in the Bible am I told that when I get married I need to change my name. In my opinion, if it’s not Biblical, it’s not a necessity. I am freed by Scripture to make my own decision based on my knowledge and conviction.
I like to throw around the word feminist when I describe myself. Our world has treated women as second class citizens forever and this is not right. I do stand up for the rights of women around the world and in my own country because women are being taken advantage of just because they are female. Equality is something I strive for. Not out of disrespect for men, but because we are called to love all. Deciding not to change my name is not me fighting the man or telling Chris that I’m better than he is. I’m not disrespecting his family or their name. Quite the contrary, I’m delighted to become a Sanner. Chris tells me stories all the time of his family history and the greatness of his relatives. It’s an honor to join such a great group of people. I wanted to be a Sanner. But, just as much as I admire the Sanner name, I admire my families name. I take great pride in the Nortons. My grandparents were wonderful people. I loved my grandma Patsy more than anyone in the world. Keeping her name is a way that I can always remember her and keep a part of her with me. Just as not taking the Sanner name at all could be considered a dishonor, completely dropping the Norton name is just as equally a dishonor.
I have always been Sara Norton. For almost 25 years! That is who I am. Marrying Chris doesn’t make me a new person. He isn’t making me a complete person. I’ve already been made complete by Jesus as Sara Norton. Marriage doesn’t change my character or my past. I’m not gaining a new identity. Chris has always been Chris Sanner, and he will continue to be Chris Sanner. Even as a married man. I have always been Sara Norton, and I want to continue to be Sara Norton. I love and respect my husband. But, I also love and respect my family and my heritage. I love and respect those whom I came from and the impact my family had on me. I am a Norton and I don’t believe getting married has to take that away from me.
I have chosen to remain Sara Norton and also to add Sanner to the end. I am Sara Norton-Sanner, a strong independent woman who married the love of my life! A woman striving to live Biblically. A woman partnering with my husband, not being ruled by him. A woman free to explore culture and free to question societal norms. A woman making decisions full of meaning out of conviction and with purpose.