His name was Mavuto. I met him the first year I attended Camp Life in Zambia in 2009. Like so many of the children at camp, he was quiet, a bit withdrawn, and blended in with the hundreds of other children who were at camp that week. But since he was in my small group of 10 boys, I had the opportunity to get to know him and to find out more about his story. Although I don’t remember most of the details, I’ll never forget the meaning of his name: problem.
Literally, his name meant problem.
What would it be like to grow up as a Problem? What would it be like to be reminded of this every time your name was called?
Many of us would prefer sticks and stones over some of the names we have been given throughout the years. But the power of a name is not so much in the name itself. The power lies in our belief in the name and our response to it. Being called a loser is not nearly as painful as believing you are one. Being labeled a failure is not nearly as debilitating as living out that identity. And being named a problem is only a problem if you assume it to be true.
Names can destroy us, but they can also give us insight into our true identities, which is why we have to give careful pause when we read passages in the Bible like these (emphasis added):
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
— Ephesians 5:1
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
— Romans 8:16–17
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
— 1 Peter 2:9
Do we believe these things? Do we believe that we are beloved children of God, heirs with Christ, and a holy nation chosen by him? But perhaps even more important are the names we believe about God:
- Father (Matthew 6:9)
- Daddy (Abba) (Galatians 4:6)
- King (Psalm 24:8)
- Lord (Psalm 8:1)
- Redeemer (Psalm 19:14)
If we truly believe that God is our Father, our Daddy, our King, and our Lord, and that he has redeemed us and made us heirs with him, we will have a very different outlook on life and on ourselves. The names that the world may throw at us will still sting, but they will be much less penetrating. In the end, they will find the soil of our heart already occupied with the truth of God’s word. During camp, we decided to give Mavuto a new name to reflect the blessing he was to our group: Gift. Now that he has been given a new name, my prayer is that Gift will believe it from this moment forward.
What about you? Which names do you believe? Do you believe the ones you have been given as a child of God? Or are you still clinging to names that no longer have meaning — but may still have power — now that you have placed your faith in Christ?
Receive and believe your new identity in him. It will be the greatest gift you can give yourself, no matter what your name may be.