Monday, July 25, 2016

What's in a Name?

"Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:1b-3a)

I don't know about anyone else, but these verses amaze me. God, the God of the universe, knows my name and calls me his own. He wants to be there for me through it all- through the rough waters, through the stress that threatens to drown, through the activities that overfill my calendar, through the messy relationships with imperfect people, and even through my own mistakes. He wants to walk through all of it. Not because he has to, not because there's someone guilting him into it. No, it's just because he wants to; he loves me that much.

I just finished reading Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts." In it, she is on a quest to live up to her name- Ann, which means "full of grace." And it got me thinking about names, about how we all seem to live up to our own names whether or not our parents purposely gave us those names with those meanings. It made me wonder- did God play a part in the naming of us? Did he guide our parents to certain names? I know that in the Bible, a name always describes something about the person who receives it.

For example, Isaac means "laughter." When Sarah heard that she would be pregnant in her old age within the year, she laughed at the angels' proclamations. Didn't they know that ship had sailed a long time ago? Didn't they know how old she was? How long she'd waited to become a mother?

"Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, 'An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?'" (Genesis 18:11-12)

And how about Elizabeth? She too was past the age of conceiving according to the world. She was considered barren and had given up on the idea of ever getting pregnant when God made it happen in his perfect timing. In that story, an angel actually tells her husband what they are to name the baby. And the name? John, which means "gift from God." And there's no arguing it. John definitely was a gift. There was nothing the two could have done on their own to make it happen. (Luke 1)

And then there's the story of Jacob whose name means "holder of the heel" or "supplanter" (and that one means basically that he's an overthrower). He was born into the world holding the heel of his brother. It's how the Bible says he got his name. He even overthrows his brother when he takes the birthright and the blessing that rightfully belong to Esau. Later on in his life story, he wrestles God who changes his name to Israel. And what does that name mean? "God wrestler" or "God fighter." (Genesis 32:28)

These verses about Jacob? They lead me to the conclusion that a name can be something that we still need to grow into as well. My oldest is a great follower. Give him a job and he'll do it without complaint. Put his younger brother in the leader position and the older can work with him to accomplish many things. His name means "manly king." A king is a leader. My son is not yet a leader, nor is he quite the man he will one day be. He has to grow into those. It's my prayer that by speaking those truths into existence, that God will honor it and teach him to be a great leader. Maybe one day he will lead his own family, his own friends, or even his own company. I pray that he will be a leader worth following- a God-loving leader.

My daughter nearly received my own middle name as hers since it's a family name handed down through several generations. It means "famous warrior." But something held me back from that decision. I wonder now if God was guiding us to the rightful, more fitting name for our girl. Her given name basically means "happy little flower." You see, she is already a warrior. She already has that fight in her. The thing she needs to develop within her? It's her name. It's that inner joy that only God can give. That is the thing that my daughter must grow into. My prayer for her is that she grows to love God so much that she can be happy no matter her circumstances, that she can find joy whether life is good or bad. (Philippians 4:11-13)

When it comes to my own name, I never actually liked it much growing up. In fact, at the age of 35 I'm still not a big fan of my name. But in studying it, in looking at the meaning and the challenge within my name, my heart is softening to it. You see, my own name means "follower of Christ" and "famous warrior" since I have both a first and a middle name. On their own, on the surface, I appear to be both of these things. I am most definitely a follower of Christ. I love Jesus and strive to do his best in my life. I am also willing to fight on the big hills in my life. It's when they are joined that we find that thing that I must grow into. Combined, I think that the two mean that I must grow into being a fighter for Christ. That is my own personal path that I'm walking.

Now that we've talked about names, I have some questions for you to consider:

1. What do each of your names mean?
2. How did you get them?
3. Do you feel like the meaning of your names matches up with who you are now?
4. Do you need to grow into your name?
5. What happens if you put the two meanings together? Does it change the way you are challenged as mine did above?

In closing, I want to pray for us.

Dear God,

I pray now for everyone who's reading this blog now or in the future. I pray that you bring redemption for names given in haste or for names that are disliked. I pray that, like I am beginning to now, those reading this who hate their own names would find beauty in the ashes of their names. I ask that you challenge each one of us through these names and reveal yourself in them. Show us where you want us to grow and how we can get to the place that you're leading. It says in your word that our names are written in your book of life when we come to know and love you and your son. It says that we are your sheep and you are our shepherd. Guide us now Lord. Call us by name. Show us your unending love in our lives today and give us eyes to see those blessings. I am so good at seeing the bad, Lord. Show me the good. Show me the blessings that are there everyday that I've missed.

Thank you for loving us, Lord. In your name, amen.

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