When Morgan and I got married one of the questions everyone was always asking us was “well, when are you having kids?!” It seems like the longer we have been married the more and more people ask us this question. It’s like there’s this expectation of newly-weds to have kids shortly after their wedding…well….. Within our first week of marriage, Morgan and I sat down and began planning our family. How long would we wait.. how many kids we would have… did we want boys or girls… and then we began thinking of baby names. Let me tell you, we spent a lot of time on names. We weren’t planning on having any kids at the time (mom, if you’re reading this, we’re still a few years out… sorry lol!) but we wanted to spend time being intentional about the names we gave our future kids. What if we gave them the wrong name? What if we didn’t like the sound of it after a few years? What if the kids at their future school made fun of them because their name could be twisted into a joke? What if we gave them a name that sounded really cool, but had a meaning that was less than we desired for them? We spent hours working on crafting the perfect list of names for our future kids!
Over the years, there has been a lot of research done to show the impact of a name. Some research shows that it can determine the job you hold, the college you get into, the salary you can make, and even the shape of your face! Other research shows that your name tells people about your personality, and that just by hearing your name, people have already formed an opinion about who you are. Our names aren’t just what we’re called by, they’re effectively labels that we wear that we can’t peel off. Names are no joke!
There is power in the name that you’ve been given, the label that you’ve been given. Whether good, bad, or somewhere in-between, you carry a name or label that is shaping your life in one way or another. This name or label can keep you from connecting with people, it can keep you from jobs, it can keep you from loving or forgiving yourself… yeah, I’m not talking about surnames anymore. I’m talking about the names, the labels, that your circumstances have given you. We all have them, and if you’re like me, you’ve tried far too long to shake them off but have had little to no success. Your name, your label, has been given and there is no changing it. What’s done is done.
This is what the world tells us.
I refuse to believe it.
Take a brief second and look with me to see what the Bible has to say about names and labels and how they can impact us. In the book of Genesis, we see some incredible examples of names, their meanings, and the how these real people also dealt with their implications.
16 Leaving Bethel, Jacob and his clan moved on toward Ephrath. But Rachel went into labor while they were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. 17 After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!” 18 Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). The baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin. Genesis 35:16-17
When Rachel gave him the name Ben-oni, she could only see the sorrow that was before him. She saw him growing up without a mother. She saw him knowing that his mother died while giving birth to him. How painful it would be to carry that his entire life. She also saw her own pain. Knowing that what she carried for 9 months she would only cherish momentarily before she passed on into eternity. That her son would never know her voice, never know her hug, would never know how much she loved him.
Ben-oni.. son of my sorrow.. what a fitting name for such tragic circumstances…
Then, in the midst of all of this, his father steps in. He sees the mess before him, his dying wife and his newborn son. He takes it all in and knows that Ben-oni is not what this child should be called. He should be called Benjamin. So the father did what only a father could do and he changed his name. Did you know that Benjamin means “son of my right hand?” Throughout the entire bible we see that the right hand is a symbol of power and authority (check out Luke 22:69 and Mark 16:19) and that it is also a symbol of blessing (check out Genesis 48:14). His father took the name that was given to him by his circumstances and gave Benjamin a name that reflected his father’s power and authority.
But Jacob changing Ben-oni’s name to Benjamin wasn’t something superficial. He didn’t just change it because “my son is gonna have a super powerful name and not some wimpy one.” No. This was something much deeper than that. This was something that was done intentionally. Jacob knew just how important a name could be in defining the path of a son’s life.
You see, Jacob’s very own name was given to him as a product of the circumstances of his own birth. Earlier in Genesis, we see that Jacob was the second born twin. As the first twin was being born, Jacob came out shortly after grabbing onto the heel of his twin brother Esau. From this, he was given the name Jacob; which means “grabber,” “supplanter,” or “manipulator.” A name that was intended only to describe the circumstances of his birth had a lasting effect! His entire life, Jacob could not escape the name in which his circumstances had given him. In a way, his name defined his life. He tricked his brother into getting his birthright, not just once but twice! He tricked his nearly blind father into blessing him instead of his brother. Jacob’s life was filled with trickery, manipulation, and his own tireless effort to grab more of what life had to offer.
Maybe Jacob knew that his newly born son could not live a life defined by circumstances he had no control over. So, with the power only a father has, Jacob changed his son’s name to Benjamin. Son of my right hand.
Some of you reading this may relate to this at a deeper level than most. Your entire life has been defined by what your parent’s did or didn’t do. You feel as if circumstances you had no control over have predetermined the outcome of your life. Perhaps your skin color, your ethnicity, or your social status has given you a label that you just can’t shake. Or maybe you feel as if circumstances you created have done the same. Here’s the good news. Just as Jacob changed Ben-oni’s name, your Father in Heaven has also changed what you are called. Your circumstances do not have naming rights, only your Father does!
In Him you are now…
You are a child of God. (John 1:12)
You are a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
You are justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24)
You are no longer a slave to your sin (Romans 6:6)
You are not condemned by God (Romans 8:1)
You are a fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
You are accepted by Christ (Romans 15:7)
You are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
You are chosen, holy, and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4)
You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
You are a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
God loves you, and He has chosen you (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
I often wonder why Jacob lived a life of manipulation. Was it because there was such power in the name, the circumstantial label, given to him that it alone determined the direction of his life? Or was it that his name, his circumstantial label, held power only because Jacob believed it to be true?
Who will you choose to believe today? Will you continue to believe the lies that the world has told you? Falling into the trap that you are worth nothing more than your social status, your worst mistake, your sexuality, your race, or the digits in your bank account. Or will you choose to believe what your Heavenly Father has called you? Holy. Righteous. Redeemed. Loved. A Child of God.
Only your Father has naming rights, and you have been called His.