Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Isaiah 43:7
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.
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.
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 uprooted her, and their two sons, and moved them to Moab. Then Naomi watched all three of them die. Her story took on bitter overtones; so much so that she renamed herself Mara, which means bitter. That wasn’t the end however. God redeemed her name as well as her story. He used a Moabite woman, from a godless nation, to reanimate her mother in-law. Ruth made one brave decision after another and ended up marrying a holy man, saving Naomi, and filling both their futures 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 that God will do it for them.
He did it for me. I thought I was stupid. For forty years I was afflicted with deep insecurity about my intellectual capacity. I overheard someone I respected call me stupid when I was only six years old. No matter how well I did in school, nothing erased this label. God healed me. And interestingly enough, He used the meaning of my middle name to re-write my self-concept. ‘Eloise’, the name I disliked and hid from everyone, is a French name that means ‘smart’. I think I heard God chuckle.
God, You can re-write the plot of anyone’s story at any time. Anything tragic associated with my name can be transformed into something with holy meaning, filling my heart with joyful singing. In Jesus name, Amen