What's in a name?

Before we get started…. Some news! The blog is now on Instagram! So if you’re feeling social or interested in my daily faith journey, follow along here.

Also, this is not a continuation from my last post about the Samaritan woman at the well. Now I see why you might be expecting a “Part 2” since I did title my last post “Part 1.” And I agree that would have made things nice and orderly. But lately Jesus has shown me that some rules I follow are arbitrary and actually don’t need to be followed! (I know! He’s turning my world upside down!) So today I’m mixing things up … going out of order … and bringing up an entirely different topic! I promise to revisit the Samaritan woman at the well again soon, but right now I want to share what Jesus revealed to me this past week. Because it really hit me….

As I was preparing for my Bible study meeting, I read about God changing Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, Ch 17. I then remembered recently reading about Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter in John, Ch 2. Now first let me say I’m pretty new to reading the Bible, and there’s still A WHOLE LOT I don’t know. But I really felt God was trying to highlight something specific since, as He led me to read about two different examples of “name changing” in such a short time!

For some reason, God felt these people all needed a NEW NAME. A name with a special meaning. A new identity. To quote Joyce Meyer in Me and My Big Mouth (the book we're reading for my Bible study), these individuals all needed a “new self-image.”

Now I think today our names often don’t have quite the same significance or meaning as they did in biblical times. (Yes, Mom, I know my name - Jennifer Barrett - came right from Erich Segal’s classic book Love Story, so there is some significance. But in the book/movie Jenny’s most famous line is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” so I suspect you didn’t want me to emulate her! BTW, if you’ve not read the book, you should. But have tissue nearby!) Anyway, even though our names given at birth don’t always have the same significance as they did in the past, I think WE very often CALL OURSELVES names or words that have tremendous meaning.  And this got me thinking…

Are there names or words I call myself? Or that I allow others to call me … that directly oppose who God says I am?
And if so, do I take on these names and words as my identity?
Do I own them?
Do I live under the false pretense that they are truth?

If you promise to be gentle with my story, I’ll give you an example of how this has played out in my life…

For as long as I can remember, I have looked at my body and compared it to others. I compared myself to friends and to strangers. I compared myself to real people and to those on magazine covers. (Yes, I knew all about the air-brushing of those photos, but that didn’t matter.) I’ve compared myself to everyone on TV and movie screens and to everyone with a fitness page on Instagram.  

I did it as a young girl and in my teens.
I did it in my 20s and 30s.
And more recently I’ve been doing it in my (VERY EARLY!!) 40s.

I’ve done it while wearing a size 0-2.
And I’ve done it  while wearing a size 4-6.

And each time I’ve done it, I have come to the same conclusion and then I’ve called myself the same name: I have called myself fat. Or not skinny enough. Or not tone enough. Or some equally critical and harsh word.

The “name-calling” to which I’ve subjected myself for years wasn’t insignificant. I can now see that I took on these negative views of myself as part of my identity. I owned them. They are one of the ways I have felt “not good enough” for years. They are one of the reasons I have felt compelled to “perform perfectly” in OTHER areas of my life. And recently, I’ve realized that my attempts to achieve perfection have affected how I love those around me. At times I have held others to the same unrealistic expectations of perfection that I have put on myself. And recognizing that I’ve done this to those whom God has entrusted me? It breaks my heart. I know something has to change.

The thing is, God has recently shown me that His words for me are very different from mine. They’re not critical or harsh. They’re not ugly or negative.
God’s Word says I am radiant because I look to Him (Psalm 34:6).
He says I am wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
He says I am beautiful in every way (Song of Songs 4:7).
The fact is there may be a person next to me who is physically smaller than me. But the truth? That’s different. Truth is found in God’s Word.

Oh, to live out each day with the knowledge that I am radiant. Wonderfully made. Beautiful. All because God created me this way. I believe THIS is the truth He wants me to walk in. THIS is the identity He wants me to own. 

Maybe you have no concerns about your body image. You’ve never physically compared yourself to others and walked away calling yourself fat. But perhaps you have other equally harsh and untrue names for yourself.

Maybe you call yourself dumb, or stupid.
Maybe you call yourself weak.
Maybe you call yourself anxious, or scared.
Maybe you call yourself a mess, saying you can’t ever “get it together.”
Maybe you call yourself a failure.
Maye you call yourself unforgivable, or undeserving.
Maybe you call yourself unwanted, feeling as though you don’t belong.
Or maybe you allow others to call you similar ugly words, and you believe them.

My friends, these words? These names? These labels? They’re not true. They’re not the names God has for you. Just as “fat” is not the name He has for me.

In Me and My Big Mouth, Joyce Meyer states that Abram and Sarai are renamed by God - giving them a new identity, a new self-image – so that God could then bring about the miracle He had planned for themI think God wants to do great things in your life and in mine. But in order for us to really experience ALL that He has to offer for us, we must first know who He says we are. We must know AND ACCEPT our identity as His beloved children. We must receive His unconditional love – love that comes with beautiful names.

I pray that you take time to identify the names you call yourself (and that you allow others to call you) that directly oppose how God sees you. And then I pray you look to His Word to find the truth.

Ask Him to show you. 
Ask Him to help you see yourself as He sees you. 
Ask Him to help you love yourself as He loves you. 
Ask Him to help you take on the identity by which He knows you.

I’m praying you fully accept the names God has for you, and by doing so, that you position yourself to receive all that God has to offer you. 

And of course, that God breathes life into these words. 


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