Child development researchers tell us that names begin to be important at about seven months of age. It is at about seven months that we begin to associate a specific name with our personal being. I find it interesting that this is also about the same time we begin to learn to crawl. And it has lead me to consider whether or not knowing our true identity is important to moving forward.
We all know that the names are powerful. Names have the power to shape an individuals’ understanding of their value, names give us an identity and names often open or close future possibilities. What people have spoken over us and what we speak over others affects the way we all move forward in this world. And so the question is, “If the names we’ve been called hold us back are we stuck with our given names?”
According to scripture, not if God is in the picture. The Bible testifies through the stories of Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Sarai/Sarah, Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul, Sinner/Saint, that God has the ability to change our core identities. When we commit to following after God, God can gives us brand new names. Are you interested in a change?
Through Jesus Christ we can take off the old identity that the world spoke over us; the name that defined us and the labels that shaped us. We can remove labels like failure, stupid, rejected, criminal, loser, addict, limited, poor, slow, different, damaged, illegal and ugly and we can let God give us a new name. Perhaps a name with a hope and a future like; appointed, chosen, redeemed, victorious, overcomer, friend of God, set apart for a purpose, pilgrim, beautiful, and restored.
Can you hear God calling you forward with a new identity starting right now? Wouldn’t life be different if you woke up in the morning and the first thing you said to yourself was, “I am victorious.”, “I am a friend of God.”, “I have been set apart for a purpose.”, “I am appointed.”
Perhaps you think your circumstances are too big for God. If so, hear God’s word to you today. In Genesis 35 Jacob and his very pregnant wife are traveling from Paddan Aram to Ephrath. While they are still some distance away, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. V17 says, “As she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair for you have another son,” As she breathed her last breath – for she was dying – Rachel named her son Ben-Oni”
Now Ben–Oni means “Son of Trouble”. Can you imagine growing up with that name?
Your whole life beginning in difficult circumstances and then you having to carry around that painful disadvantage publically for the rest of your life. The very circumstances of your birth causing everyone to view you as unblessed.
Some of the names people carry around with them are from circumstances they have had no control over, overwhelming circumstances; born into poverty, born on the “wrong” side of town, born on the side of the border that doesn’t give you access to resources, born with a disability, born to parents who weren’t healthy themselves. And when people are born into certain circumstances the world seems to write a mailing address on the package of their life before they even take time to know the full contents of the package. They confidently prescribe endings because they know the name of the beginnings.
Ben-Oni means, “Son of Trouble”. That’s the name that circumstances gave a beautiful baby boy. But when his father Israel comes into the room and sees his son for the first time and sees the circumstances of his birth, and hears the name that has been attached to him. His Father picks him up and says, “but I name you Benjamin.” – which means, “Son of Strength” . No matter the circumstances of your birth your Father in Heaven knows your true worth and will pick you up and speak life in the places where circumstances have spoken death.
And for those of us who know what it’s like to have God pick us up and speak life over our dead places, hope over our places of despair, forgiveness over our sin, grace over our mistakes and a new name over our old identity, may we be the Ones to follow God in speaking true identities over people. May we be the follower who remind people and proclaim to the world, that in Christ, people are not what they have been named by the world and people are more than their particular set of circumstances.
As we begin this semester together let’s follow God’s lead in reminding people who they really are and who God designed them to be.
Child of God,