“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
You’ve heard that one before, right? And while words can’t really ‘hurt’ per se, what about your name?
Yep… your name. Your moniker, handle, designation, sobriquet… the list goes on. I love words and their meanings, but there is no more meaningful word than the one that signifies… you!
It’s interesting the cyclical nature of the names we give or curse our children with. I was at a music workshop just this past Saturday, and three of the guys in the band were named ‘Justin’. I have one of those too (son number two). It means ‘full of justice’, by the way.
So what’s the deal with our names? Some of us have them because our parents just like the way they sounded. Names are also given to honor a past family member or great world leader. In fact, I’m named for both my maternal grandfather AND British kings… woo hoo!
Most ancient cultures believed that names were powerful and could shape the destiny of the individual. Some even have birth names that are used until maturity and then their ‘real name’ is bestowed after some ‘right of passage’, or at least until the nature and character of the person has been revealed. The popular young adult book series ‘Eragon’ has an important plot point in that everything in that fictional world has just such a ‘true name’ and the holder of this secret knowledge can wield immense power.
The Bible is pretty clear about what God thinks about names… especially his! All throughout scripture, God tells us that his name is so holy, that it’s what he swears by. All the promises given to us in the word has the God-name ‘seal of authenticity’! The people of Israel were so in awe of God that they wouldn’t even speak his name aloud or inscribe it.
So do our names define us? Are these seemingly random bestowed appellations really self-fulfilling prophesy for our lives?
And it seems that the nursery rhyme about names and pain is not really accurate. There are some names that wound so deeply that these titles can shape our thoughts and emotions. ‘Loser’… ‘idiot’… ‘cripple’… ‘tramp’. Given years of repetition, these names begin to stick to our souls. Called ‘loser’ enough, a person will believe it, giving power to the lie and dominating their life until God knows what end.
But there IS hope! The Bible tells us that God not only knows our name… he has a new name for each of us, known only to him. Jesus promises that “to him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
Wow! The God who created the universe knows and cares for me so much that he has an intimate name that only he and I will know. And I believe that this name will be the defining descriptor of me and my life and purpose… the ultimate ‘true name’. Incredible!!
Finally, in a passage in the book of Revelation, the name and identity of Jesus is made crystal clear:
“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
So what’s in a name? Apparently… everything!!