When my parents named me, it was a pretty straightforward process.
Mom: I want to name her Grace.
And bam, a star was born.
They named me Grace, because of my mom’s favorite hymn “Amazing Grace”. My dad jokes that I was named after Grace Kelley.
Over the years, I’ve been awarded many other names – Gracie, G, Sissie (not because someone was calling me a sissie, it’s because my older sister was only two when I was born and couldn’t say “sister”), as well as an incredible array of random nicknames that friends have assigned but never stuck with. One of my co-workers called me “Rachel” for a while, and to this day, I have no idea why.
Names are important in the Bible too. Back in biblical times, a person’s name not only represented who they were, but who they were expected to become. Some of Christian history’s most famous heroes had name changes at significant points in their lives – Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul, etc. Sometimes names had cool meanings regarding the story of their birth – like Jacob, who’s name meant “He grasps the heel” since he was the second twin to be born. Not to be out-done by his older brother Esau, who’s name literally means “hairy”. (Isaac probably didn’t consult his wife when naming their two twins…or maybe Rebekah had an equally…unique…sense of humor.)
This week’s post is the beginning of a Three-Part series: Call Me By My Name. Names fascinate me. Names have a significant impact on our identity. From as early as 5-7 months babies start to recognize their names as being a signal to their identity. One of my friends’ children recognizes and responds to both her given name and her nickname at just nine months old. The psychology of our names is deeply engrained in our identity as being human. As soon as victims were imprisoned during Europe’s Nazi occupation, the first thing soldiers did was strip the men, women and children of their names and instead assign them a “number” that they had to respond to. The fact is, we like hearing our names. Names hold a larger value than we give them credit for in building our identity.
Throughout the next few weeks I’ll be writing about our names as humans, and what they mean to God. After that, I’ll lead you through your own investigation of your identity as a follower of Christ, and finally, the name of God.
Do not be fooled — this is not another cliché sermon about “feeling good” through a momentary confidence boost. Instead, this is a critical analysis of what our names are, what our names become, and ultimately, the name of God.
It’s important to understand what your name is as an individual, because it changes once you become a Christian. Additionally, it’s important to know the identity of God because who He is, determines what role we see Him as in our lives.
So let’s dive in:
– You were created. Even if your arrival in your mother’s womb was a surprise to your parents, it wasn’t a surprise to God. Jeremiah 1:5a “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you.” Call me a romantic, but I love that visual – that God, His entire powerful, awe-striking, universe-shattering, wild being, filled with love, knowing me in my entirety before my fingerprints had even been formed. Before your parents first heard your tiny heartbeat on an ultrasound, God knew how many pulses your heart would beat in your lifetime. Before your parents had even started playing the game, “I’ll bet the baby has your eyes!” “I bet the baby has your nose!” God knew not only the color and texture of what your hair would be, He knew how many hairs you would have on your head. (Matthew 10:30) Not only were you created, you were created with a purpose. Colossians 1:16 tells us that “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” This means that no matter what you believe — whether you ever accept Christ or not, live your life in accordance with His will, or completely ignore Him in your life — you were still created by God and for Him. Your life is His delight. He designed each of your quirks and characteristics. Everything down to your taste pallet was designed by Him. Why? Because of one simple, and yet marvelous, answer: because He loves you.
– You have a problem. Here’s the part where many of you might start to roll your eyes, scroll quickly past, or maybe even close out of the blog completely. But this is the truth: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Somewhere in modern Christian culture, in an attempt to overcome the “fire and brimstone” sermons from several centuries ago (Read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and tell me our forefathers weren’t frighteningly morbid) that we have thus regarded any talk of our sinful nature as angry, unjust and evil. But the truth of the matter is, if you are human, you have sinned. Not only that, if you are human, you will continue to sin. Additionally, the truth of our sinful nature is that it’s a toxic condition in our hearts.
Here’s how I know this: Sin has the power to rule over us (Psalm 119:133) Sin has the power to destroy our lives here on earth (Proverbs 10:9) Sin literally stands in the way between us and God – causing a rift in the purity of our relationship with Him (1 John 1:6). I don’t say any of this with a spirit of condemnation. I say it with a heart that has been broken by my own sin time and time again, and can personally attest to how my sin has led to a broken relationship with God when it goes unresolved.
The truth of the cross – the brutal beatings that Jesus suffered – the gruesome death that he was delivered – is evidence enough how great our sin is.
– You are loved. In a world craving love and acceptance, what kind of relief would it be for people to know that just their pure existence is evidence of God loving them? That the very ground underneath their feet was spoken into existence by God, and curated for their life here on earth? The Bible does not lie when it says that nothing can separate us from the love of God – that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Another example: Romans 5:8 “But God shows His love toward us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you see what this is saying? Regardless of whether or not you ever become a Christian — whether you regard Jesus as Lord of your life or not — God is going to love you. Always. Essentially what this is saying is that each and every person on this planet has been pre-destined to be loved by God. We can’t understand how loved we are by God, until we understand how heart-shattering our sin is to Him. We are all loved, we are all invited to partake in the family of God.
Final Call: Everyone reading this post has questioned God’s love at some point or another. Whether you’re a hardcore believer or agnostic and don’t formally recognize Jesus as Lord, everyone has entertained the idea of a loving God. However, no matter your doubts, fears or misgivings, everyone reading this has never not been loved by God.
You are human, you are loved.
You are broken, you are forgiven.
No matter what, you are His.