Thursday, December 12, 2013

A New Name


You know the names you call yourself inside your head. You are a whore. You are a failure. You are an addict. You are stupid. You are lazy. You are obsessive. You are a liar. You are greedy. You are a thief. Maybe you feel ashamed of these names. You feel dirty or vulnerable, weak, out of control. Maybe you are proud of your name, like it's an accomplishment. You are proud of your sexual prowess or your ability to fool people with your words or how you can slick that handbag past the store clerk. You are proud of how drunk you can be without anyone knowing. Maybe you picture your stacks and stacks of cash, visualize yourself rolling in them like Scrooge McDuck, and take pride in how you've provided for yourself, protected your future.

We all have our name. You're thinking about it right now. Whether you're ashamed of it or proud of it, you know what it is. It's not the first thing you tell people about yourself, often times the last. It's what characters in books or movies or TV shows reveal about themselves that makes you feel squirmy inside, like they should have just kept it quiet, but also what you secretly enjoy knowing. Like their Achilles heel or the soft spot that makes them human. It's why PostSecret is so popular. We want to know the dirty ugly parts in others that reminds us we aren't alone in our dirty uglies, even if they're different things.

I read the other day about Abraham. His name originally was Abram, but God chose to change his name. "No longer shall you be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations." (Genesis 17:5) Several times in the Bible, God changed people's names. Abram to Abraham, Jacob ("deceiver") to Israel ("he strives with God"), Simon to Peter ("rock"). Each time, God changed their names to indicate a future state. When God named Abram "father of a multitude", Abram's wife was barren. Father of a multitude? How? His wife couldn't conceive. When Jacob became "he strives with God", he was on the run. When Simon became a "rock", he still had yet to deny Christ, hardly a sign of someone strong and stable. But eventually, God blessed Sarah with a baby and Abraham became a father. Eventually, God used Jacob in the line of generations leading to Jesus. Eventually, Peter would become the mouthpiece of Jesus's ministry, spreading the Gospel around the world. These men weren't fathers of multitudes or striving with God or rocks when their names were changed. These men would become who God said they were.

If you are a Christian, God has given you a new name. "Christian" means little Christ, means "like Jesus". The Word says you are a conqueror, a child of God, an heir with Christ, a new man. "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19-20) You have a new name, Christian. Your name might have been slut. It might have been liar or thief or adulterer or murderer. Whatever it was, it isn't anymore. And your new name? It might wear a little big, like you don't quite fit it and you aren't really sure of it. Who is sure of it? God. He gave it to you and not because He felt bad for you and wanted to give you a self-esteem boost. He gave it to you because He will make it fit, He will make it true, and of that, you can be sure.

What we call ourselves matters. The more we replay the names we give ourselves, beat them into our minds, the more true they seem to us. We often become who we say we are. Our own name for ourselves means much more to us than others' names for us because we are the ones living in our own minds. We know the real truth, despite what others may see or say. But sometimes we get the truth wrong. Sometimes what we think we know isn't at all what is. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) You are a new creation, right now. The "old"? The not-nice, ugly-awful? It's dead. It may not feel like it. It may not look like it. You may not believe it which is why you need to hear it.

For my children more than for myself, I need to hear this. If I am a mom who constantly beats herself up, my children will learn from me and beat themselves up. If they hear from me all their faults, they will live in that pocket, preach that ugly to themselves. For my daughter, this is even scarier. She faces a future of hearing loss and possibly brain damage. She faces taunts from children who will mock her for being deaf or having strange hearing aids. You know all the names they will call her if she is developmentally delayed and to think of it, to think of a sweet little child being called those names, it makes your stomach hurt. And so for her sake, for her sake, I need my life to preach "Redeemed". I need my life to preach "Loved". I need my life to preach "Precious Child" and "Citizen with Saints" and "New Creation". I need to picture myself not as broken and dirty and discarded, but as polished and clean and cherished. I need to know that I am who God says I am and not what I say I am or what anyone else says I am. My daughter needs to know this too.

As ugly as those names others might call my girl is as ugly as those names you call yourself. As sick as those words make you feel, to think of them being hurled at her, is as sick as it should make you feel to beat yourself up. You aren't those ugly words any more than she is. You aren't, not because you aren't, but because God says you aren't. The God who spoke and there was light says, "Child" and so you are. Says "New" and so you are. Says "Clean" and so you are. Live in that pocket, preach that beauty, become that truth. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death... If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:1-2, 10-11)

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