My whole life I’ve been slightly obsessed with names. You can ask my Mom. She will amen everything I’m about to say. When I was a kid, I would check out baby name books from the public library. To read. For fun. When I was like EIGHT. And then there was that whole two or three year period in my younger years when I lamented my own name. I could not for the life of me figure out why my parents would name me Carrie Beth when Carrie Elizabeth was the better, prettier, more sparkly choice. Obviously. I remember crying and asking my parents between sobs “Why… couldn’t… you… just… name me… Carrie ELIZABEEEETH?”
My obsession even carried over into my adult life. Any time one of our friends or acquaintances announces a new pregnancy or birth on Facebook, my best girl friends and I immediately text our group thread and discuss the new baby’s name. I also may or may not have a running list of names for my future kids tucked away in the notes app on my phone. And then there’s the fact that I have my very own personal copy of 100,001 Baby Names. In fact, one of my teacher friends knew I had said baby name book and asked to borrow it when she was looking for a name for her sweet new baby boy. That’s right. My married friend borrowed a baby name book from me, the single girl. The irony’s not lost on me. So there you have it. I’m secretly obsessed with names. (I guess it’s not so secret anymore, huh?)
My love for names even carries over into my love for Bible study. One of my favorite things in the Bible is the significance of names. The word nerd in me loves to dig in to whatever scripture I’m reading and see just how a person’s name impacts the story. Names in the Bible can tell us more about a person’s character, a struggle they’ve faced and overcome, or a change they’ve undergone. Even the names of places in the stories can give us greater insight into what has happened in that town or region or what the Lord has promised for that place.
This week, I’ve been reading the She Reads Truth devotional plan on the book of Ruth. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? I’ve always loved the story of Ruth because there’s so much about her that I admire. I love Ruth’s character – her actual, literal character of heart. Not just her as a “character” in the story. I love how she was willing to give up everything and move to a new land because she was in covenant with her mother-in-law. Because she loved her. Because she was family. The idea of covenant relationships and the importance of family in the Kingdom are two of my favorite things to talk about. I also love how hardworking Ruth was; I especially love that it was her work ethic that drew Boaz’s attention and not just her beauty. I have also always admired Ruth’s fearlessness and boldness because there are areas in my life where I am far from bold and very much afraid.
Every time I’ve read the story of Ruth, I’ve identified solely with her. Until this time. This time when I read the scripture, my heart stirred because I saw so much of myself in Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law. You see, Naomi was having a really hard time. Her life was nothing like she’d pictured it. She lost her husband, her two sons, a daughter-in-law. On top of it all, she was completely unsure of how the Lord was going to provide for her. As she and Ruth entered her hometown of Bethlehem, the women who had known Naomi forever didn’t even recognize her. Her circumstances had even changed her outward appearance. Naomi was quick to say “Do not call me Naomi (pleasant); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Naomi was unable to see past her current circumstances, and so she took it upon herself to change her name and give herself a new label.
Like Naomi, I’ve questioned God’s provision in many areas of my life. Like Naomi, I’ve been completely unable to see the big picture that only he can see. Like Naomi, I’ve allowed my circumstances to change me. And like Naomi, I’ve taken the naming power away from God and re-named myself or my situation.
The very last line of Wednesday’s devotion was “We are not named by our circumstances, we are named by our good God.” I immediately started crying when I read that. Even though I hate to admit it, I will. I am a woman who has spent years bowled over by my own inability to see past my circumstances. Instead of trusting God with the big picture, I’ve looked directly in front of me at whatever wall I was facing and called myself names based on temporary situations.
As I was reading, Holy Spirit started speaking to me. I saw an image of a wall covered in graffiti, tagged and re-tagged with defining labels and words. So many words, so many labels, so much chaos. It was hard to tell what anything actually said because there were just so many words everywhere. I saw Him reach down and wipe off all the labels, all the chaos from the wall with one confident sweep of His hand.
The next thing He did was remind me that I am who He says I am. He’s been working with me in this area a little while now, but it’s still an area that I struggle with – seeing myself as He sees me. As He whispered to me and reminded me who He says I am, He placed a label on the wall.
Then He whispered something to me that still takes me a little by surprise. He told me that I am who HE is. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, I have full access to all the characteristics of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. He took all the labels I’ve given myself through my circumstances and the voices of other people, and he changed them out for labels of His own. As He spoke these truths over me, He placed His corresponding label on the wall right alongside the names He calls me.
My name is not Hopeless because His name is HOPE.
My name is not Striving because His name is REST.
My name is not Alone because His name is GOD WITH US.
My name is not Weak because His name is MIGHTY ONE.
My name is not Troubled because His name is PEACE.
My name is not Uncertainty because His name is THE SOLID ROCK.
My name is not Defeated because His name is VICTOR.
My name is not Broken because His name is HEALER.
My name is not Worthless because His name is REDEEMED.
“We are not named by our circumstances, we are named by our good God.”
We were never meant to label ourselves based on our circumstances. We were also never meant to be labeled by others. If we’re going to understand who we are in Him and through Him, we have to wipe away all the clutter, all the graffiti, and ask Him to remind us who we are.
Ask Him to tear down the walls of your circumstances and remove all the labels you’ve ever given yourself. Ask Him to help you take off all the labels others have placed on you. Spend some time with Him today and ask Him who he says you are. Then ask Him to remind you who He is so you can see a better picture of who you are because of Him.