Names Have Been Changed to Identify the Righteous

“I love everything about her life!”

The barista’s comment startled me as I left Starbucks. I knew she was talking about me. We had just been giggling together, discussing our dogs and exchanging first names.

I almost turned around said, “No you don’t! You don’t know anything about my life!” But instead, I just smiled to myself and walked into the sunshine. I think I know what she loves about my life, it’s what she can see. I pray she can see that God has blessed me with joy and a peace beyond understanding.

It hasn’t always been this way. I used to spot a girl across the room and wish to trade her places. I used to pray each night that God would just kill me because I didn’t want to do my life anymore. In the midst of a 15 year battle with anorexia and a troubled marriage, it seemed as if my life couldn’t get any worse. I even feared that my loved ones had given up on me after pouring thousands of dollars into my treatment, only to still see a starving, depressed woman.

Looking into my heart, I hated what I saw. I perceived my identity as intrinsically linked to my long list of failures.

Maybe Jacob did, too. The Biblical character of Genesis lived up to his given name, “Deceiver”. In fact, when God asked him in chapter 32, “What is your name?” Jacob was forced to reply, “I am Deceiver.”

At that point in Jacob’s life, he believed the end was near. In mere hours, he would be face-to-face with a man who once wanted to kill him. Already, Jacob had a long list of mistakes to feel guilty for. I wonder if Jacob hated who he had become.

But God is in the business of changing identities. Over and over throughout the Bible, when God did a massive work in someone’s life, He also changed their name, giving them a new identity, a new way to refer to themselves, a new way to see themselves and a new way to present themselves to the world.

For Jacob, God told him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”

Another definition of the name Israel is, “Prince of God”.

According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, our identity changes too, when we accept Jesus as our salvation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Isaiah 62 tells us that God changes our name to reflect the new identity that we receive when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for us and the gift of His righteousness to us.

“The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.”

As I sank into a chair on the patio at Starbucks, the sun’s afternoon rays painted my feet a soft yellow, then shadows encroached and swept me into the early evening hours. I smiled again. I love who I am. I love the one who gave me His identity in Christ, and I dearly love the name, Jesus.

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Naked Shame? or Very Good

There is at least one common picture in every family’s photo album. Or as many common pictures as children in the family. It is the inevitable bathroom picture.

imagesA pink, pudgy child, below the age of shame, plays in the tub, blissfully ignorant of Daddy’s camera. If not ignorant, simply unaffected by the potential shame in that microsecond flash of light. Bubbles cling to smooth, clean skin. A dollop of suds perches atop a curly head, like a white crown. The little girl is joyfully convinced that her royalty is unmarred by nakedness. Or, the tiny self-imagined cowboy remains undaunted by his immodesty. And Daddy grins with pride at the innocence and perfection.

It might remain that way. If the little girl were never exposed to any opinion but that of her father and mother. If the only people whoever judged her nakedness were those who created her together, who bore her in their loins and pushed her into this critical world. But it won’t be that way.

The boy might remain proud of every inch of his natural physique, if he only internalized his parents’ admiration. If only he was never told, “You should look like this…,” or, “You could be more perfect. You’re lacking something.”

When did naked become a problem? 

God created Adam and Eve in His own perfect image. He bore them, and brought them to life by His own exhale. And He thought they were perfect. He knew their frame. He knew they were dust and He knew they were good. They were exactly as He intended.

And what if they had never entertained the voice that said, You could be more? You are lacking.

When God entered the garden after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they had already scrambled to cover themselves. Then they hid from their Creator, dearest Love, most Faithful Companion. The first moment earth knew shame. The first time a woman cowered in humiliation from the longing eyes of her lover. 

But they had been naked before. God had seen them naked. They had gazed at each other naked. It was obvious they had been made in God’s image. They looked like His children. So why were they ashamed? What were they afraid of?

Adam and Eve’s sin was not that they were naked. In fact, I think God’s greatest disappointment was that his children listened to, entertained and believed the serpent’s opinion of them over His own. Essentially, with their choice to eat the fruit, Adam and Eve were demonstrating that they did not believe God. They did not believe that He was a perfect creator. They did not believe that God had made them VERY GOOD.

Just like the child in the bathtub, they would have grown up seeing that they looked just like Daddy. And they would have grown in the assurance that they were VERY GOOD.

How do you overcome the shame surrounding your body, your failure, your insufficiencies? Is it possible to ever again be VERY GOOD to God? If so, is it possible to ever be convinced in your own mind that you are VERY GOOD? Can you ever return to the way it was?

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Through the means of a couple of pastors lately, unrelated and in their own sermons, God has posed this question to me, “Who told you you were fat?”

Quite a provoking question to ask a recovering anorexic. Who told me I was fat? Where did I get that idea? How do I silence that voice, turn and drink in the voice of a God who calls me VERY GOOD? Permit me a paraphrase of the verses above:

So, from now on, I will regard no one (including myself) as fat or ugly or worthless. Because I believe in Jesus Christ, everything bad about me is gone. He has created me all over, and again and made me VERY GOOD! All this is from God, who brought me back to Him, restored me to my original mint condition and to His favor. Because of Jesus, I am perfect in Christ and I am given this responsibility, no, this JOY, of telling the world that Jesus has restored us. Shame has no influence over those who believe their Daddy.