Our Sons of Thunder

One of my favorite things to learn about are the origins of people’s names. This post is the story behind the names of our twins, which is lengthy. But do we expect anything less from me?

James and John are both significant family names for Jimmy and I think he always knew he wanted them incorporated in the names of his future children.

James is, of course, named after Jimmy and Jimmy’s daddy: James Louis Schmitzer III. Early on in our relationship, Jimmy talked about the possibility of continuing his name should he (we) have a son. So I knew if the Lord blessed us with a boy, there would be the possibility that he’d be named James (or Jimmy or Jim). Traditionally, a generational name is gifted to the firstborn, or only, son. But life threw us a curveball-we were about to have two firstborn sons at the same time. For months, Jimmy struggled to decide whether or not to continue with naming a third. He wrestled with the thought that one twin might feel his brother was favored or feel that he was jipped of the generational name. We played around with splitting his name, with middle names and with different names altogether. Ultimately, the decision was made to go old school- whether it was Twin A or Twin B-whoever came out first would receive the namesake. So, out popped our Twin A one minute before our Twin B, and James was named and labeled by our doctors immediately.

John is named for Jimmy’s late grandfather. At his Papa’s memorial, Jimmy gave a touching eulogy. Of his Papa, Jimmy has said, “This man was the epitome of selflessness….The rarity that was shown by John…he didn’t expect awards or thank you’s or even a pat on the back. He just wanted you taken care of…And what he probably didn’t know was that the love shown [for Memaw] showed me how to love my wife better and showed me how to be a better man.” Having looked up to his Papa his whole life, I think the name “John” was particularly special to Jimmy and one he knew he might gift to his own future child. Our son John was able to meet and cuddle his namesake before Papa’s passing in December 2020 and it’s a moment we will always cherish.

The running joke of John’s middle name, Steele, is that he may or may not be named for Steeler’s Football, an organization to which Jimmy is whole-heartedly devoted. But we figured you couldn’t get a stronger name than “Steele.” And so John Steele Schmitzer, a mix of traditional and unconventional names, came to fruition. It’s different, it’s strong-and we loved it.

And so James and John are family names belonging to ones that Jimmy loves the most. The fact that they both started with “J” was unplanned and a happy coincidence.

But the best and most touching coincidence is this:

After our gender reveal and the announcement of the boys’ names, a handful of friends and family sent us this verse:

Among the twelve called to be Jesus’ apostles were, “James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them ‘Sons of Thunder.’)” Mark 3:17.

It was a verse I’ve certainly read before, but I’d never retained this little detail, having glanced past it as it held no meaning until now. In fact, this is the only spot in the Bible in which this little fact is divulged.

The Bible mentions the nickname given to the brothers, James and John, by Jesus. But we’re never really told why. One can assume, however, it’s because they had pretty big personalities. Maybe angry, maybe impulsive…thunderous, if you will. The example used most often to prove their fiery personalities is in Luke 9:54. When a Samaritan village does not welcome Jesus and his disciples, James and John suggest calling down fire from heaven (it’s casual), but, as always, Jesus corrected them with grace. Their hearts were on fire for the Lord and through the teaching, grace, and love given by Jesus, their hearts were softened. So much so, that James was the first apostle to be martyred and John is known as the “Apostle of Love.” If we look at the character and nature of the brothers when they first began their walk with Jesus, we see they posses some “thunderous” qualities. However, through belief in the Lord and a relationship with Christ, they were transformed.

In another sweet coincidence, storm clouds rolled in and a thunderstorm boomed on the night we welcomed our twins-our own “Sons of Thunder.” And since then I have prayed. I pray that as they grow, they learn from the lives of the original “Sons of Thunder.” I pray they are bold, boisterous and thunderous when they need to be. I pray they choose to walk with Christ, that they cultivate and nurture a beautiful relationship with Him. I pray their hearts are on fire for the Lord. I pray they allow their hearts to be softened and welcome a transformation of spirit. I pray they are unafraid in the face of persecution. And I pray they feel compelled to share the gospel and the love and grace given to us through Jesus Christ alone.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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