Our baby is having a baby.
My wife and I can hardly believe it. That little girl we held in our arms just yesterday will soon be embracing her own little girl for the very first time.
As all new parents do during the process of a pregnancy, Lauren and Chase had to choose a name for this new life. I smiled when they described their process.
Going through scads of name books and websites, thinking through the names of significant people in their lives, testing out names on one another…all led to a whole lot of “no way!” moments. The possibilities got narrowed down to a few acceptable candidates. But picking the name happened in a unique way.
They asked the baby.
Lauren described it as saying the name and then asking the little girl inside her, “Is that your name?”
Ultimately, their little budding flower made it clear to her mom and dad what her name would be. Flora.
Watching this process started me thinking.
A name defines us, it is a sign and symbol of our identity. Often, it is also a testimony to our destiny.
Dianne and I chose our children’s names purposefully. Nathaniel–gift of God. Caleb–bold, courageous one. Lauren–crown of honor. Each now-grown child lives out their name in our lives each day.
It seems God knew the importance of names…and he had a habit of changing them when the given name was restricting eternal purpose.
Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Gideon became Jerub-Baal.
Jesus picked up where His Father left off. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul.
In all these cases God was redefining the identity of a person by assigning to them the name that described them as He saw them.
On one occasion near Gadara, Jesus was confronted by a wild man (Mark 5).
This crazed individual made his bed in tombs and was a scary paradox of helplessness and aggression. He was helpless to control the powerful forces within him and was beyond the help, control or management of anyone around him. He terrorized the people of the region and lived his days out among the graves.
He was the walking dead!
Considering the insane approach, appearance and actions of the man, it seems Jesus asks a completely out-of-context question. It is the only recorded time Jesus ever asked anyone, “What is your name?”
But Jesus knew something about this wounded man. The demoniac, as he was labeled by the world around him, had been so completely wreaked by life that he couldn’t even remember his real name.
Some might say Jesus was asking the demonic hoard their name…but Jesus didn’t need that information. What he did want the man to see was how he was completely defined by what he had become.
So he called himself “Legion”. And to show he’s not merely talking about a group of Roman warriors, he adds “for we are many” (Mark 5:9). At the core he was saying, “I am a catastrophic mess; a hoard of self-destructive impulses.”
- Defined by his past
- Labeled by his disease
- Wearing the insignia of his insanity
- Summed up by his sin
He had completely accepted–at the deepest levels of his identity–that he was what he had done.
This man fully believed the most debilitating and constricting lie of them all: That all he would ever be was what he had become so far.
When Jesus confronted the troubled man and forced out of him the junk that was defining him, it was like an eternal parent asking the man, “Is that your name!?”
And then defiantly answering with a resounding “No!”
Jesus refused to let the man be defined by any other name than the one that lived in the heart of the Father.
A few times in the Older Testament God speaks to a person or even a tribe and says, “You will no longer be called…” and then gives a redefining (redemption) name. A name that showed how that person or group was defined within the grace-filled love of God.
I love God’s promise to His recalcitrant people,
“No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah, [my delight is in her]
and your land Beulah [married];
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.” (Isaiah 62:4)
Within the heart of God is our original identity–our true name. God is not willing to allow us to be limited and labeled by anything we have done or experienced in our pasts.
God works faithfully to bring us to that place where we become what we have always been in His heart.
Just as Jesus was the expression of God’s heart and the representation of God’s dream, so is the Holy Spirit’s work in us. We are designed to be God’s dream come true; God’s word in flesh; God’s heart on display.
Our destiny is His narrative written in our story.
Historically, when God’s people came under control of other cultures and slaves to other nations, the rulers would rename them in an attempt to redefine them.
The pagan King Nebuchadnezzar renamed the Jewish boys Daniel, Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria with Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Godly men given heathen names so their divine gifts could be prostituted for the pagan King’s purpose.
But the old czar found out that there was a force far more powerful than his fiat or his fiery furnace.
When a man knows the name that lives in the heart of the Father, you cannot change his destiny no matter what you call him.
One of the most beautiful pictures of where God is taking this world is found in the final book of His-story. God says, “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17b).
On that day, Jesus will place a white stone in our hands with the name on it that has been in the heart of the Father for each of us since before creation. Then, He will ask: “Is that your name.”
I can’t wait to shout “Yes!!”