Recently, I was reading in Genesis where God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. It made me think also of another situation where He changed a name: Jacob to Israel. I find it of pivotal importance when God steps in and does that. To me, "whys" have always mattered (I'm not good at looking at things on just the surface) and what the benefit is of such significant changes.
Abraham's and Sarah's names were changed to name them as "father of many nations" and "mother of many nations". (Genesis 17) Abraham was 99 years old when this happened and at this point he had no children. God fulfilled that name change the following year when Sarah did finally conceive and give birth to Isaac (and she was 90!). Back in Chapter 15, God had shown Abraham that he would have descendants as countless as the stars in the sky. He was 75 at the time. He had to wait about 25 years to see the beginning of that promise come true in his life. Can you imagine how many doubts filled his mind throughout the years? Can you imagine Sarah's disappointment each time she knew that "this" just wasn't the month, yet again? But when God stepped in....everything changed. It wasn't an immediate fulfillment of a promise, there weren't immediate results of the name change, but it happened. Through their stories, we learn to not give up when the timing seems so long to us.
Jacob became Israel in Genesis 33, changing him from a deceiver to a prince. Jacob, a grandson of Abraham, was living a life of deceit. He deeply deceived his brother Esau and had to flee to Haran. Though he had a dream reminding him of God's covenant with Abraham, he still didn't make that needed life change. A few years down the road, as a father of 12 sons (later becoming the 12 tribes of Israel), he continued to fight against family and lived a life of deceit, most especially with his uncle, Laban. Needing to return to Canaan, Jacob feared passing by his brother Esau that he previously fled from. The night before arriving, Jacob wrestled with an angel of God throughout the night and was injured in his hip/thigh. It was at that time that Jacob was renamed Israel, which some say means "he struggles with God" and some say mean "having power with God." God changes his name and reminds him of his purpose, BUT he still struggled. He changed the name and the man eventually changed to live up to that name, but it was a long hard process. Through his story, we learn that real growth comes at times through struggle and pain.
Names are changed to give a new identity.
In a few months, I'm going to have the chance to rediscover my own identity a bit. I made the decision, with the full support of my husband, to completely step away from ALL childcare in my home for many reasons. There will be no more "tot" school and no more "littles" to love on. A big change is ahead for me. For the first time in about 19 years, I will be without a little one to care for (either my own or someone else's that I care for as deeply as my own) and won't have someone in diapers or potty training. My role is changing. Many things I've put off, I'll have a chance to begin or restart. In many cases, it's going to be discovery mode. For half my life, I've been identified AND lived out a life that centers around small children. I have had, even what some consider irrational, a DEEP love for little ones. It's who I am. Though I still love them and will have some deep withdrawal, I'm going to be going on adventure to see what other identities are within me. That may be a bit of an "off balance" time as those changes take place.
Identity is important.
What happens when God changes OUR names?
When we turn our lives over to Him, our name does become Christian, but what if we took that a step deeper? We become a new creation with a new identity! What identity is that?
We change sinner to redeemed.
We change unworthy to deeply loved.
What if we stopped living as victims and let our name be VICTORIOUS? How would that change our actions, thought patterns, and the way we move about life?
We change from hopeless to with hope.
We go from abandoned to cherished.
This list goes on and on.
Yet, here's the problem. This is where I'm guilty...
I don't walk in that new identity often enough.
I stay in the old. I crush my potential. I don't succeed at fulfilling my purpose. Wonder how many blessings have been lost, lives changed, or opportunities missed?
Yet, we ARE these new things. When we encounter God's presence, HE CHANGES US.
Our new identity is right there for us.
We have to embrace it.
We have to grow into it.
Yes, we might even have to struggle through it.
Are we choosing our new name or staying stuck in our old ones?
Today, what if...
What if, we just took one little step that moved us towards LIVING out our identities in Christ.
Knowing who we are IN CHRIST changes everything.