I love naming things. I’ve even considered that, were I to leave teaching for another career, I’d become a professional paint-namer. Or maybe a nailpolish-namer…because somebody is really doing that! When a paint colour is well-named; when the tone and hue are reflected perfectly in the words used to describe, I feel a giant YES of agreement in my heart. It could be argued that, in our house, we’ve ended up with too many pets, because the mom of the house (that would be me) loves to name things. I do enjoy our animals, but, if I’m honest, choosing pet names might be the best part of getting a new pet for me. I love to brainstorm by saying every word out loud that comes to mind; by naming everything I see and hear and taste and smell. I own more baby name books than any person should, especially since someone invented the world wide web! Pour me a cup of coffee and put a name book on my lap and I’ll be happy all day long. Giving names to new humans felt like the ultimate commission. It was a task I accepted with all the gravity and consequence of a royal mandate. Choosing the exact right name for each of my babies was of utmost importance to me. I wanted to like how it sounded, how it looked, what it meant, how it worked with other names…and I spent long amounts of time in thoughtful choosing. Until the right name made itself known to me. Of all the possibilities and ideas flying around, one would land and come to roost in my heart. And I would feel the comfortable weight of it. And I would know.
What’s your name? We all have earthly names given to us by our people. Maybe your name can be found throughout the generations in your family. Maybe it was trendy and you ended up as one of five Michelles in your grade one classroom. Maybe a sibling was allowed to choose and, as a result, you’ve spent your whole life explaining how to pronounce or spell your name. My name was assigned because my mother met a woman she really liked and admired. I don’t believe my mom gave too much thought to the actual meaning of my name, Eve Ellen, but as I became interested in name meanings, I learned that it means “life bright.” I happen to like that meaning, and I say yes to it, but whether you like your name or you don’t; whether you feel your name holds prophetic promise for you or it doesn’t; whether the naming of YOU was carefully crafted or it was a lottery, it doesn’t matter. Because there is one who thought intently about you before you were born. As he selected your parts and crafted your personality, he also named you.
Names ARE important, and knowing who God says we are is foundational to our identity. We need to know what God says about all of us as his Children AND we need to know who he says we are as individuals. Memorize it, absorb it, and say it out loud!! Knowing who God is and who we are in Jesus is the best place to begin and the best defence against rogue, enemy namers who would love to see us wrongly labeled.
The first time I saw a compiled list of “Who I Am in Christ” was as a nineteen year old missionary. I was volunteering with an organization called Youth With A Mission in the south of England. The list was posted by the bathroom sinks (three sinks shared by about 25 young women) at Holmsted Manor, the base where I lived. It wasn’t one of the pretty, graphically designed art pieces you can print off nowadays. It was typed in the original courier font of a real typewriter. Honestly, I thought it was predictable and a little cheesy, but without realizing, I began reading it every time I brushed my teeth or washed my face…and before long, I absorbed these truths. They were in me! You have to know what the Bible says in order to speak truth to yourself.
God says he’ll protect me, that I have everything I need, that I’m forgiven, that I have peace, that I am not alone, that his name is a strong tower and if I run to him I’ll be saved. I am hidden in Christ with God. He says I am faithful and I’m his friend; that he’ll finish the work he began in me, that I’m his and the evil one can’t touch me, that I have purpose and hope; that his Holy Spirit lives in me and his power works through me. And I’m not special in this! These promises are all true and available for any of us who are his.
Although God makes promises for all of his kids, He doesn’t view us as a collective lump of humans. He thinks of us as individuals, uniquely created. As for me, God thinks I’m hilarious. That may sound egotistical to declare that the God of the Universe thinks I’m funny, but it’s true. I’m often aware of him laughing when I’ve been particularly clever. I am conscious of his delight in me! He calls me his “wild child” and his “maverick” (which I’ve learned is essentially an unorthodox or independent-minded person; a free-spirit and a non-conformist. Mmm, pretty much.). He calls me “unhindered” and says I’m the best version of myself when I live as such.
We need to hear Jesus above all the rest – above the things broken people have said to us and about us; over the ways we have been faultily named. Maybe there’s a name you were called as a child that you’ve never been able to shake. Maybe a word was used in jest, but it penetrated your heart. Perhaps you have named yourself by believing your own corrupt inner monologue. So often, we believe what is being reflected back to us by broken vessels. God helped me to understand this by showing me a picture of a broken mirror. While the glass was still intact within the frame of the mirror, it was shattered and fragmented. I could recognize myself enough within the reflected image to know it was me, but the image was distorted and broken. This is often what happens when we listen to these shattered and fragmented voices. There is enough truth in what’s being said to tempt us to believe it, but it’s not a full and clear picture of who we are; it’s broken. So how do we discern the truth of who we are?
Changing our names is definitely not as easy as right-clicking for a drop-down menu that gives us the option to rename. But it can be done. When the faulty names get spoken, whether by others or by ourselves, check in with God. Ask “Lord, what do YOU say?” We need to learn to hear his voice above all others; to ask for his perspective on who we are.
We can rename things by simply repeating the new name over and over. When I had children, I became intrigued with the language learning process. After months of labeling and naming everything in their environments, my babies would begin to point and name using the correct words. I also witness this dynamic as a French Immersion teacher. If I were dark and twisty, I could really mess up my students by teaching the incorrect names for things. And then, by continuing to use the incorrect words, the names would stick. How about, “that’s not a dog, it’s a pineapple (Ce n’est pas un chien, c’est un anana).” It might seem like a ridiculous example, but this actually happens in real life. We use the wrong names for ourselves all the time: “I’m stupid, lazy, harsh. I’m ugly. I’m a terrible mom.” When we repeat these names over and over they stick. So, call yourself by your TRUE names, by your REAL names. Say them out loud. Repeat them until you absorb them.
I don’t know you, but I can promise you that God did not decide to name you “Failure.” He didn’t select “Bitchy” or “Insecure” as the defining tags for you. If the names you are hearing do not line up with who he says you are in his word, then they are not true. It’s time to re-name. Ask him what your name is. Sit quietly and ask him “God, who am I? What’s my name? Who do you say I am?” Stay there and listen – and when he starts raving about you, don’t tell him he’s wrong. Don’t disqualify by saying “oh, those are just my own thoughts.” Write them down. If others have a word for you from the Lord, write it down. Compile a list of the names and descriptors he has chosen for you. He gives us our identity in him, but it’s our job to call ourselves by our true names.
Link to free printables “Who I Am in Christ”: