Read: Jeremiah 23:21-25:38, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Psalm 84:1-12, Proverbs 25:15
I will make you an object of ridicule, and your name will be infamous throughout the ages. (Jeremiah 23:40)
Relate: I wonder how many parents in Germany named their son “Adolf” in the generation after World War 2. I wonder if there is any way to find those statistics out. What about Iosif (as in Joe Stalin) for those living in USSR the generation after his death? That might not work, though, he was much more of a villain in America than in Russia. Perhaps it would be better to ask if any Russian-Americans, or any expats or defectors named their kids Iosif (or Joseph). What’s in a name? What kind of stigma follows around an infamous name.
The name I was born with has nothing to do with infamy, but don’t ever call me “Brian”. Seriously. I hate it. If ever I answer my phone and someone asks, “Hello, is Brian there?” I hang up. Immediately. Every now or then I’ll be at a bank or somewhere where they say it. I can feel my back tighten and I’ll be grinding my teeth. I swear there’s an instant headache. I hate the name with an unreasonable passion. Some people I love deeply still use it out of habit. I try to smile and blow it off, but it bothers me. Every time.
I wonder, as the years marched by if Jacob felt the same way about his name. In Hebrew his name Ya’ aqob is identical to Ya’ qub which means “deceiver”. (Keep in mind, in early Hebrew there were no vowels.) Imagine growing up with the name “trickster” or “liar”. How annoying would such a name be as time went by?
React: Most of my life I have gone by the name “BJ”. Ever since my first email account with juno way back in the mid 90’s I’ve used the handle, “Beejai”. For anything legal today I will use BJ. For anything personal, Beejai. That is my name. One day I’ll get around to legally changing it but in my mind, in my heart, and with my friends, it has already happened.
“Brian” means “strong”. I’m not. As part of who I am, I have embraced weakness. I recognize that without God’s help and without the fellowship of believers, I am nothing. On my own I am destined to fail every time. It is through my weakness that God is revealed strong.
On the other hand, “Beejai” means “win”. It means victory. It is through rejecting my “Brian” that God has given me “Beejai”. I have the victory because He, not me, is strong. I have embraced a victory that is not my own. This can only happen because I have rejected a label I was born with. So what about you? What labels, what names, what descriptors have been following you around? What are those things that you have believed, or that you have allowed others to believe that have kept you from becoming all that God wants you to be? He is the only one with the right to label you. And He calls you victorious.
God, I am so grateful that You make all things new. I am grateful that You have made me new. Help me to live in the newness that You have purchased for me. Let those labels that I was born with and the ones that I have collected fall away. Help me to shed them like dirty laundry at the end of a long day. Let words like failure, or ugly, or dumb, or mistake mean nothing when people try to apply them to me. Let me be clothed only in Your righteousness. Let me only respond to what You call me.