your secret name

Confession #1: I told our friend, Kary, a couple months ago that I’d review his new book, Your Secret Name, on Monday, October 25. I figured that would give me plenty of time to read the book and think of nice things to say in case I didn’t like it.

Confession #2: I don’t really like writing book reviews. Especially if they’re ones I have to write.

Confession #3: I read the entire book today (Sunday, October 24).

Confession #4: I loved it.

A little background (my new tagline apparently). Gabe met Kary at Grace College (in Warsaw, IN) back in the late 1990’s. A few years ago they reconnected here in Columbus, OH. I think Gabe might have been helping Kary with his website or something and Kary gave him a couple of his books. I was reading the acknowledgments at the beginning of one of the books and said, “Oh my word. Oh my word!” (I do this a lot.)

Turns out that I know Kary’s wife, Kelly. We were friends at Cedarville College. Small, small world. Unfortunately, I see a lot more of Kary than I do Kelly (she’s an even busier mama-of-3 than I am), but Kary’s pretty cool too. I’ve gotten to hear bits and pieces of his story over the past few years, and what I’ve always liked about it (and him) is that it’s real. A bit messy. And a sweet tribute to a God who never, ever gives up on us and loves us like crazy.

Your Secret Name.

The premise of the book is that we all have a Birth Name (Kary bemoans the fact that his belongs to a girl) and a Given Name (lots of them actually). Given names are names that other people give you (they can be good or bad, but they usually characterize what you do, not who you are, and certainly not who God created you to be).

Let’s say your Birth Name is Fancy (I’m trying to think of a name that doesn’t actually belong to someone I know–this is not easy.). And over the years, some of your Given Names have been Ugly, Overweight, Unpopular, Unloved, Left Out, Bulimic, Pretender, Unhealthy, Hopeless.

Or I could just make it personal (ouch). Let’s say your Birth Name is Marla. And some of your Given Names have been Tall, Gangly, Outsider, Smart, Nerdy, Goody Two Shoes, Crooked Teeth, Underachiever, Gifted, Coward, Jealous, Bitter, Don’t Belong, Indecisive, Self-Centered, Awkward, Independent, Overwhelmed, Tired, Self-Reliant, Stressed.

Too much information? I can share the rest some other time…

Kary tells us that what most of us don’t realize is that we also have a Secret Name, a name that God has for us, a name that describes who he has created us to be, a name that is the exact opposite of the most hurtful Given Name we’ve got. A name that reflects which characteristic of God (Provider, Healer, Shepherd, Savior, Friend, Prince of Peace…) means the most to us.

To be honest, I’ve always kind of thought of myself as pretty Got-It-Together (Hey! Another Given Name!). Books that help you explore your past or heal from hurt (like my friend Tammy’s Soul Healing) never really do much for me, because I’m pretty Whole.


God has been revealing to me the past couple years that I’m more of a mess than I thought. That his grace is sufficient, yes, but that it means relying on him, not myself. I’m questioning stuff, rethinking stuff and sometimes wondering if I’ve gained any ground at all in the last 34 years, 11 months, and 3 weeks.

Anyway. I think you should read this book. Especially if you’re not reading Radical. 🙂 A dear friend of mine pulled me aside at church a couple months ago and said, “I hope you’re not mad that I’m not reading Radical. I just have so much… stuff… that I need to deal with first.” I told her that of course I wasn’t mad and that I completely understood. And claimed yet another Given Name–Read-Along Nazi.

Do you have some “stuff” to deal with? (We all do; some of us just realize it before the rest.) If so, let me encourage you to read this book. It’s fascinating really. Part memoir (my favorite genre), part teaching, all just really, really good. Kary is gut-honest about his struggles (and some of them will make you cringe) and has a real heart for helping people heal and move into all that God has for them.

You can check out more about the book here (Kary’s got this really cute web designer) and even take the Secret Name Test to find out your Secret Name. And the video is pretty sweet too.

Or you can just Go Directly To Amazon and Buy The Book.

And if you’re feeling really brave, I’d love to hear what some of your Given Names are. Or better yet, your Secret Name.

p.s. Friendly Reminder from the Read-Along Nazi: We’re doing Radical Chapter 6 right here tomorrow. See you then!

19 thoughts on “your secret name

  1. Keri

    I am all over the place on your blog today, right? In case you haven’t noticed with my two other comments I’ve left today, I am having a hard time sorting my thoughts and getting it together here. I feel like I have a lot of wasted time to define my last six months. Like maybe I used to know what my purpose was and have somehow lost it?

    All that to say, if you will have a Radical read along flunky (who’s trying to get at least half credit by turning in my work late), I want to do this read along. I can buy my book when I’m home for Christmas. I want to do it. I think I need to sign up somewhere else so I’m going to do that now!

  2. Pingback: Marla Taviano » 50 Days to Discover Your Secret Name in 2011

  3. rare beanie babies

    As a blog reader, I am readily on the search for information that are both awesome and helpful to digest and I must say your blog passed my criteria. Many thanks for the enlightening information you have created! Will be coming back soon!

  4. meghan @ spicy magnolia

    Man, since I read this post yesterday, I’ve been thinking about this so much. It hit me this morning that one of my given names is Failure. And I’m not sure what a secret name of mine would be, but in light of the name failure, I will reflect on HIS faithfulness. Love to you!!

  5. Pingback: Marla Taviano » indecisivity

  6. Deidre

    Blown away at your post for a few reasons. Bear with me … my devotion on September 20th was on the Secret Name God gives us written on a white stone (Rev 2:17). I don’t remember ever reading that before. I mentioned it to a friend later, and she said, “I can’t believe you’re saying this … I just read that”. Hmmm … I start studying about it some more and started making a list of names I’ve been called in the past. I go to B & N to buy 90 Days with Paul and instead leave with ….. you guessed it …. Your Secret Name. I think I screamed when I saw it on the shelf because it was clearly God’s Echo and he wanted me to study it further. I have had the best time learning about this and read that book immediately. I’m teaching on it this Sunday.

    Okay, that’s too much, but imagine what I thought when I opened Google Reader and saw the title of your post. Isn’t God the coolest?

    1. Kary Oberbrunner


      Sounds like God was hunting you down with your freedom in mind. I am humbled at the great lengths that God will go to communicate his love to even just one of his children.

      I am so glad you are teaching on the book. I want people to take the message and make it their own. We each have a story and so we each communicate the message of Your Secret Name differently.

      Let me know if you need a hard copy of the DVD. Also, we have a free PDF leader’s guide ready later this week if you want to pick and choose or weave it in.



      1. Deidre


        Thanks so much for replying to me. Your first sentence stopped me in my tracks. I have this problem with teaching … too often I try to put a lesson together and fail to process it for myself. I don’t ‘eat’ it before passing it on. I was already sensing a nudge from the Lord to hold off teaching it until I had time to let it change ME. So, again, another echo.

        I read your book AGAIN today. The chapter “The White Stone” makes me want to shout! I love everything about your book and bought several copies tonight for my friends. Thank you for being obedient to the Father and sharing a painful process with us. Your words were a sweet addition to all the commentaries I have read on Rev 2:17. I love how God puts things together.

        I would love a DVD (is it the same as what’s on your site?). And the PDF leader’s guide. Let me know how I can get both.

        Pondering what my secret name might be …

        1. Kary Oberbrunner


          Shoot me an email over at (kary “at” and I will send you the PDF and video.

          Sounds like God is going to be using you to share this message in a deeper way. Cool stuff.


  7. M1ssDiagnosis

    Great review. I actually LOL’ed reading this! The funniest thing was the Read-along Nazi. I’m still chuckling because I think that may be one of my Given Names too. I’m always cramming books down people’s throats. Seriously, this IS a life-changing book that I might have to strongly recommend to everyone I know! 🙂

  8. Jen Hanson

    Given Names: Tall, Skinny, Blond, Artsy, Over-achiever, Goody-Goody, Prude, Firstborn, Responsible, Depressed, Cynical… on and on it could go.

    Possible Secret Name: Hope

  9. Rachelle

    Ewww, I cringe at names I’ve been given and some I’ve given to myself. My most bemoaned are from Jr High: ratchet mouth (apparently I talked a lot) and ugly are among the highly loathed.

    Thankfully God is picking up the pieces of my life and has proven that he is always faithful. If I were choosing Faithful would be my secret name. I’m gonna buy this book for me and to share with my teen/tween children. What a gift if they could learn now the depth of love God has for them!

  10. Nina

    Neat. My “given name” is probably Depressed. I first encountered depression when I was 13 and it has tried to hold me down ever since (almost 30 years!). God is faithful, and each encounter I have with severe depression helps me to realize that even more. My secret name is Hope. 🙂

  11. Krysten

    I think the most hurtful given names for me were stupid and lazy. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the second grade that caused me to be bad at every school subject except reading and speaking. I’ve often felt that God has used my experience to make me more sympathetic to others who struggle in school.

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