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While visiting the library with the kids for summer reading material, I picked up a slim volume by Karen Cushman in the historical fiction section entitled, The Midwife’s Apprentice.  It was a tidy little one-sitting read about a poor wretch of a girl born into medieval England with no prospects, no parents, and no hope. The people of the town simply call her Beetle and the midwife, a stingy and cruel woman, fetches her out of the dung heap to work for pitiful wages.

An important change occurs in Beetle’s life one day when she is sent to another town on an errand. Someone mistakes her for a girl named Alyce, asking her to read something for them. Beetle, malnourished in every way, including educationally is astonished she should be mistaken for someone who could read, someone with a real name, like Alyce.  When she returns to her village, where she is is much abused by the townspeople, she takes on the new name Alyce and with it, a new sense identity, one she has given herself.

Many people are given bad names in life, and sometimes the worst names are the ones we calls ourselves. Loser, failure, ugly, hopeless. At some point, in order to move on, we have to shed the unwanted names given to us and choose new names for ourselves.

In the Bible, names are powerful. Parents named their children according the circumstances of their birth, or the hopes they cherished for their futures.  Leah named her son Reuben (he has seen my misery) to celebrate God’s favor to her when she felt rejected by her husband.  When she chose the name Levi, meaning “attached,” it was because she hoped his birth would attach Jacob closer to her in affection.   Rachel tried to name poor Benjamin Ben-oni, meaning Son of my trouble, because she was dying as she gave birth to him. Jacob named him “son of my right hand” instead, perhaps trying to save him such a sorrowful identity.

In Christ, we have a new identity and a new name; the old is gone and the new creation has come. Saul was crucified with Christ on a dusty road from Damascus, and Paul was raised to life and sight and a glorious new destiny under the hands of Ananias.  Through sanctification, Christ calls out the best in us, using our unique perspective and gifts to shine for his glory.  Our new identity is not a white-washed wall of conformity, it is Christ’s Holy Spirit shining through the stained glass of our personalities, temperaments, and experiences.

When we feel ourselves dragged down by the power of the past, we must look to him to lift our heads, encourage our hearts, and remind us of our new name: child of God.   Sometimes, like Alyce, we have to intentionally turn the page on that chapter of our lives, and choose a new name for our future, one that sings with the hope of a blood-bought believer.  Redemption wasn’t cheap and it’s not just for eternity; it starts now, today.  

There is a song by Matthew West, “Hello, my name is” that deals with this topic. Listen to its powerful message, 

What will you do to start living your new name today?