My Sunday school class at church has been walking through the story of the Old Testament and we are in the book of Exodus. According to our pastor, in the original language the title of the book was “The Book of Names”. We have been talking a lot about the meaning of names in ancient Egyptian history. We have learned that a person’s name was very important in ancient Egypt. In the same way that we think of heart, soul and mind as what makes up a person, the ancient Egyptians believed that their name was a significant part of their identity. This belief was so significant that when a new Pharoah came to power he might destroy all the documents that mention the name of the Pharaoh that preceded him. This was thought to actually wipe out the existence of this Pharaoh. There are several examples in the Bible where God gave new names to those that he has set aside for a special purpose. He has a special job for them and changes their name to more accurately reflect the new Identity that he gives them. In Genesis 17 Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, which means “father of many”. Also in Genesis 17 Sarai’s name is changed to Sara intended to reflect that she would be the mother of nations.
All of this learning about the connection between a person’s name and their identity before God got me thinking. I was reminded of an event that occurred while I was working for a counseling ministry in Branson, Missouri. It was the last day of a family retreat in which all the families we worked with were in town. One of the college graduate age students was giving her testimony during a worship service. She did a wonderful job sharing the story of how God had worked in her life and changed her in recent years. Throughout her testimony however, she referred to herself as “weird”. She would tell a funny story and then say, “I know I am weird”. She would relay a part of God’s work in her life and then say, “I know I am weird.” She discussed the silly things that made her remarkable and then would say, “I am a little weird.” When she finished her testimony the director of the program went up front to pray for her. Before he did however, he touched her on the shoulder, looked her in the eye and said, “Your name is no longer weird, your name is beloved child of God, You are precious to him and he has a purpose for you.” As I sat in the back of the chapel with tears welling up in my eyes I was struck by the power of a name in this young woman’s life. She viewed her identity as weird, but God saw her as his beloved child. How did she begin to see herself this way? How did she internalize this mistaken message about who she was? Where did this message come from?
I am convicted today of the importance of how I experience and think about my children. Children are so perceptive, and when I experience or think about them as an annoying, crazy, bad, or stupid, kid-they sense it. If I experience or think of them as a lovable, delightful, engaging or smart child-they sense it. I pray that the Lord will give me the patience to see my children, as He sees them. I hope that despite my mistakes and blunders that my children will internalize the identity of Christ and their special purpose from God.