AM I HELD CAPTIVE BY MY NAME?
And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. Genesis 4:2
When Eve gave birth to her second child, he was named Abel. The meaning of his name fit his destiny. ‘Abel’ means ‘breath or vapor’. As the story of his life unfolds, his life is short, just a vapor. He is to be the first martyr for the Christian faith and will be remembered in the great hall of faith chapter in Hebrews.
Names are interesting things. Oftentimes, the meaning of someone’s name holds great spiritual meaning. It’s something we can grow into. I believe God often handpicks names though parents think they made the decision. Names so often seem to fit the child.
In a loving and stable home, a girl named ‘Joy’ will be a bubbly child, full of sunshine. A boy whose name means ‘man of faith’ will grow up to have spiritual grit. He will go on to surmount daunting challenges. But, let the home be a wasteland, full of pain and destruction, and Satan will make sure that the child grows up to believe the exact opposite of his name. The girl named ‘Joy’ will be visited by depression. The boy whose name means ‘full of faith’ will experience affliction that causes him to live fearful.
Can God change our story, our nature and our name? Consider Naomi. Her name meant ‘pleasant and agreeable’ and for a while she probably was. Then her husband took her, and their two sons, to Moab. She watched all three of them die. Her story took on bitter elements so that she renamed herself Mara, ‘bitter’. God redeemed her name as well as her story. He used a Moabite woman, from a godless race, to rehabilitate her mother in law. Ruth made one righteous decision after another and ended up marrying a holy man, saving Naomi, and filling her senior years with joyful laughter.
God is a God of new names. He wisely, and perhaps playfully, bestows a new identity on one who is willing to follow Him to the land of blessing. It’s not an easy journey, as it will involve the complete shift of a former mindset. It will require grit and faith. But deep joy and profound significance will follow any who is willing to believe God for.
He’s still doing it for me. I thought I was stupid. For 40 years I was afflicted with deep insecurity about my intellectual capacity. God healed me. And interestingly enough, He used the meaning of my middle name to confirm the truth. ‘Eloise’, the name I disliked and hid, is a French name that means ‘smart’. I think I heard God chuckle.
I am praying for a girl right now whose name means ‘place of stones’. I am inserting her name into Ezekiel 26:36. Her God can give her a heart of flesh to replace her heart of stone. I think her story is a sad one but there is a Father who sees her, and offers her abundant life. Her ‘place of stones’ will become an altar of worship.
You are a redemptive Father. You can redeem anything and everything. Anything unholy and tragic associated with my name can be transformed into something holy, prosperous, and full of joyful singing. Amen