I still have tiny baby tags that were on my children’s wrists when they were born that read baby AJM (my names but in full). The blue one and the pink one for both my son and daughter ready to be given to them one day. Once every few years, I remove them and show them among a few other memorable items they had on their birth dates. Their new names only appeared in the birth notification at that point.
A new name signifies so many things. It’s that’s exciting moment for a parent or custodian to give an identity to a new born child or it could be given shortly after a meaningful milestone, whether it’s after a wedding taking place and you are adding your spouses name to your own or after a painful divorce denouncing an x-spouse name, or after a long gruelling adoption process and the child or children are now yours. There are many reasons why names change but let’s stop at this today.
The reality is that a name change kicks off a new season. Often times, the name comes after a painful sacrifice, be it a mother in labour bringing forth a newborn or long tiring days of planning for a beautiful wedding or even a painful partnership leading to a divorce just to mention a few.
As I read Genesis 32 today, I was drawn to verses 24 – 30 that gave the story of how Jacob, Isaacs son and Abraham’s grandson had his name changed to Israel. The verses say, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30 NIV).
Jacob was returning to the land of his father after twenty years in a foreign land. However, he was not returning alone, he now had wives and children and wealth. He had finally got freedom from Laban who was not only his father in law but also his maternal uncle. Ahead of his journey lay the fear of meeting his brother Esau whose birthright he had taken. That’s a whole story for another day but I wish you took an afternoon time out to read the interesting Genesis stories. I better be back to the name change.
My realisation as I read this scripture was that aspect of struggle before we acquire new names. Many have been called as teachers of the gospel, painters, political leaders and world changers, but we are not ready for that battle, we assume that those titles and names belong to other people. We are not ready to wrestle with what we consider limiting in our lives to move to the next level. We have settled with names such as “Fat Mary” or “Poor Tom” or “Lying Joe”. We settle in the names that have been silently used to describe us.
As week two of 2022 draws to a close tomorrow, I pray that this is the year that you will arise and take on that struggle, and let those who called you names like Poor Tom will call you “Rich Tom” and “Honest Joe”. Some battles may be tougher than others, but we must stand firm and refuse to move till the blessing of that new name comes.
God bless you!