What’s your name? Not the name on your license or the one your mamma gave you, but your NAME? Your Identity. Your Being. Your Glory. In older times people were often given identity-driven names.
- Abram (“exalted father”) was changed to Abraham = “father of multitudes”
- Jacob was changed to Israel = “strives with God”
- Simon son of John was changed to Cephas (or Peter) = “Rock”
- All the folks with vocational names like Cook, Butler, Baker and my friend from high school who should have been a dentist: Shannon Toothman…or my own last name as I’ve come from a heritage of ranchers.
In Isaiah 56 we find God’s people finally being set free from Exile and brought home to the Promised Land. But things have changed. There have been numerous additions to God’s family, people that are intertwined with the Lord, but feel like “dirty outsiders” that don’t belong.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
Have you seen the movie Inception? To quickly summarize: it tells the story about how people can create, enter and redirect people’s subconscious worlds, which could result in manipulating their “real world” thoughts and actions.
It turns out that we all engage in this dangerous and somewhat effective game everyday. We find ourselves in a reality that we don’t like: pain, anger, sadness, failure, shame, fear, hopelessness. We find ourselves living lives we don’t want to live, feeling things we don’t want to feel, doing things we don’t want to do. We don’t want to live in the here and now, it’s just too hard. So we weave a coping tapestry as we dive down and make an alternate reality, one that is much more to our liking (at least for a little while). Sometimes this alternate reality is done in real-life with real actions (in our secret sins and hypocritical faces); sometimes it’s done deep down in our hearts and imaginations (i.e. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).
- When the middle-age man is ashamed of his job, family, body and/or finances, so he pours his life into work in order to prove his worth.
- When the 10th grade boy feels unloved, so he hides in the porn-world because these 2-dimentional women will accept him.
- When the woman in her 30s is overwhelmed at work and home, so she begins to have an extra glass of wine each night to relax, which turns into several glasses.
- When the senior girl in college feels disrespected and marginalized, so she begins to belittle and bully freshman girls in person and online.
- When the child is anxious when mom and dad are yelling at each other, so he throws his own tantrum just to get them to stop fighting.
- When the pastor is afraid that if the numbers keep going down, he’ll lose his job (and his reputation), so he convinces himself that other churches are growing because they have watered down the Gospel but HE is the only one that is preaching the Truth.
Life is so hard, leaving us insecure and terrified. And so we hide. Cope. Escape.
We escape in our heads as we tell ourselves we will never be enough while we concoct imaginary lives where we are the hero (think real-life Total Recall).
We escape in the “real world” when we act out either in a way to prove that we are “enough” (work harder, do better) or in a way to prove that we aren’t enough (“If I’m a loser, I may as well act like one”).
Into this reality-turmoil there is terrible news and great news
First the terrible news: your feelings of insecurity, failure and fraud…are correct. Kinda. We are all so much weaker and have so many more rotting floorboards that we can possibly realize. From the beginning of time we rebelled against the “name” God has given us and have tried to create for ourselves a greater name. Look at how the Tower of Babel is described:
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
In regards to sin and rebellion, it’s true. We are broken, frail, muddy and even wretched. If our reputation and love is to be built upon our accomplishments, we are in grave danger. But that’s not the end of the story. God has create a realer-reality in place of our alternate reality. He has taken the reality that we have warped and he’s re-created it into the true reality of a new name, new identity, new hope, new image. The great news is that the very thing we are desperately seeking and inappropriately trying to create has been given to us at Christ’s expense…and even more, because it’s a name that’s infinitely greater than any we could imagine, and one that will literally last infinitely longer than any we could conjure up ourselves. John in Revelation tells it like this:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
On the cross Jesus’ name was mocked, proclaiming in a sarcastic tone: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” But how true it was. As Jesus’ name was mocked he died for our broken “name” so that he could give us a new name. In him our name is now Beloved, Son, Heir, Friend. In him our old names have been crucified, which now frees me from the futile and exhausting drudgery of creating and keeping up with my name; frees me to glorify His name and enjoy the new name I’ve been given by living out the vocational-aspect of my name: love, grace, freedom, sacrifice. Allowing me to replace my alternate-reality with the True Reality of an eternal name.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”