In Genesis 32, we learned that God renamed Jacob to Israel. This name change signified a change in Jacob from one receiving his blessing through deceit to one who prevailed with God . In the Bible, we often find that God renames people in order to reflect a change in their purpose or their identity.
What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot.
When my brother was born my mother and father named him John David, a beautiful, powerful, biblical name. A few months later, my mother learned the name of my father’s mistress, Johnny, and promptly had my brother’s name legally changed. She didn’t want his identity forever symbolized in a name tied to such a traumatic and tragic event in our lives.
When I was 5, my mother remarried. She likes to tell the story of my 5-year-old self sitting in the back seat of the car, trying emphatically to convince her that my new stepdad-to-be should take our last name instead of her taking his last name. After all, there were five of us and only one of him. He should become one of us in name. Very logical. I remember the conversation. I didn’t like the idea of my mom having a different name than me at all. She was my identity.
Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth. William Wordsworth was a poet. Jules Angst, a psychiatrist. Sara Blizzard, Amy Freeze, Larry Sprinkle and Dallas Raines were all meteorologists. Thomas Crapper, a sanitary engineer. Now these may all be coincidences, or maybe they’re not. Maybe names matter to us. Maybe they have the power to define us.
When we accept God’s grace, we accept a radical change in us. We accept being made anew in the blood of Christ. We accept the revelation that God laid out our purpose prior to time’s beginning. We accept a sudden elevation that humbles us into the army of God. Through our individual gifts, each of us enters into his design for our existence. All we have to do is place our hand in the extended hand of God. And each of us walks away with a name we had only to receive: beloved.