We're known in many ways - the sound of our voice, our smile, the things we like, the things we say and do. Those things represent our identity. But no one can say who I am unless they call me by my name.
My name is Tracy-Ann. That's what people call me when they speak to me or refer to me.
My son and I were recently talking about how he got his name. His dad liked the sound of it and I agreed to it because of the meaning - 'steadfast', 'enduring'.
When he looked up the meaning of my name, he found Tracy means ‘warlike’, ‘fighter’, ‘blessed with a courageous spirit’ and Ann means ‘grace’, ‘favoured’.
Growing up, I never would have identified with being a fighter or being blessed with courage. My dad only recognised tenacity in me during a tough weekend trek away together when I was 17.
Considering the twists my life has taken since then I take solace in the meanings of my names and now wear them with a sense of purpose and privilege. I identify with them.
I do believe, as can be seen in the bible, that names carry significance and weight. In a sense they can be prophetic. God renamed several people in the bible to exemplify the mandate on their lives. He also chose the names for John the Baptist and Jesus, telling their parents what to name them from conception.
Do you know what your name means? Or, what have you been called, how have you been treated that you now identify with, rightly or wrongly?
Several years ago, my son’s dad and I went through an embittered court battle and my son had to travel back and forward between us. It was a soul-destroying experience for everyone. I felt like I was drowning in despair.
During the times my son was at his dads, I would spend all of my time running into God's presence, reading the bible, soaking myself in worship music, learning to bring a sacrifice of praise into the courts of heaven. (A sacrifice of praise is called a sacrifice because it’s not something you naturally want to do. It costs you something. You have to lay things down and let things go.) I began journaling and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. He is our comforter and counsellor.
As I read the bible and listened to the Holy Spirit, a scripture jumped out at me one day.
Isaiah 62:4 (ESV)
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.
Those names - forsaken, and desolate - resonated with what my life represented. I identified. I studied the history behind these terms, and it was so significant to my own journey that I knew God was speaking to me. I was no longer to see myself as forsaken and desolate, but rather, as a delight, and belonging. I could embody courage and grace where naturally, I felt outrage and resentment.
Israel had gone through a time of rebellion and lived as if God didn’t exist, identifying themselves more with the way the culture around them lived,. It was far from the way God called them to live.
I had done the same.
God let them go their way until they came to the end of themselves and started crying out to Him again.
I did the same.
God heard their repentance, saw their need and relented, showed them mercy and received them back in complete grace.
He did the same for me.
He said to them, I’m going to rename you so you know that your identity is not anywhere else, but in me. God was also inviting me to reidentify myself.
Are you wearing a name, or characterisations that don’t belong to you?
I believe we are known by a name in heaven.
There is a story of a man named Gideon in the bible (Judges 6) who was fearful and hiding from the enemy around him who were a terrifying enemy to have. The angel of God appeared to him, calling him 'mighty man of valour' before directing him to stand up and fight his enemy. He had to be convinced but he chose to take on that mantle and he defeated the army around him.
If you don’t know, ask God how He identifies you, and wait to hear His answer. You are called and chosen, appointed for a purpose, and your name is significant.
Do you know the meaning of Gideon? Great warrior. He didn't feel like one, but he became what God called him.
Do you know, even Jesus asked his followers who people were saying He was. Then he asked them, ‘who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘you are the Messiah, the son of God’. Jesus said, ‘you are blessed because that thought didn’t come from you, but that was revealed to you from God’ (read this story in Matthew 16:13-20).
Jesus knew His identity. But He wanted His disciples to know it too.
He chose you. He chose me. When we understand what Jesus Christ did for the world, and our identity in God's love as a holy Father who restores and makes us complete, we can claim the new identity He gives us. The Holy Spirit will show us who we truly are.
We never have to be afraid again. We never have to feel guilty or compromised again. We never have to feel inferior or offended again. It’s a real thing.
It’s not something that we can fully comprehend quickly, but it's a progressive understanding as we spend time with Him, getting to know Him privately. That’s where our peace and assurance can come from. If we believe.
How do we receive peace and assurance? By the restoration of our eternal relationship.
Our names are recorded in heaven because we belong to the Originator of our souls.
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
If your name is written in heaven, your identity is in Him. Remember, and be encouraged, that you’re not alone.
If your name isn’t written in heaven yet, God wants to include you. Just say this prayer and your eternity will be sealed with Him, in peace, forever. You won’t be lost anymore.
Nowadays, instead of being overwhelmed by despair I can declare Psalm 46:4-5.
Psalm 46:4-5 (NIV)
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
So, can I ask you, how are you identifying yourself? Where do you place your belonging?