…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
Two vital questions: “Who names you?” And “What is your highest priority in life?” Until you can answer those questions aright, you’ll never know who you are.
Whose are you?
What society tells you today is you have to find out who you are. You have to name yourself. Don’t let anybody else name you. Don’t let anybody else tell you who you are. You have to name yourself.
Through work…Here’s the problem with that: If you decide, “I’m going to name myself through my work, through my career, through my achievement, through the money I make,” problems show up because if you’re successful, you’ll find out you’ll lose your family and your health by and large. If you’re not successful…then, who are you?
Follow your bliss…Find your inner poetic self. Drop out of the rat race. Find out what your own personal needs are … your sexual needs, your aesthetic needs, your deepest aspirations. Forget about work. Find out what you really want and go do that. The real problem is when you drop out to find your poetic self you find out you need money in order to do that.
Through relationships…This is when your core sense of self comes from who you know. Or who you are married to or who your parents are. I am the son of Dub Chambers, I am the father of Caleb Chambers. I am the pastor’s wife. Or as James Taylor once said about his wife, “I’m Mr. Carly Simon.
But when your sense of self is determine by a role you play, like being a father, or a wife or friend…you are putting your entire identity in the hands of another human being who may not always have your best interests at heart.
The Bible says these are all cul de sacs—dead ends—because what happens is you think you’re naming yourself, but actually you’re not. Whatever you use to name you becomes your authority.
A man thinks, “I’m going to be a great father.” What happens when something goes wrong with the children? What if they rebel? What if they turn on you? You don’t even have a name anymore because your whole identity is wrapped up in that. All of your meaning goes out the door. You become a shriveled husk.
You do not belong to yourself. Whoever names you is the one to whom you belong. You either belong to God or else you belong to whatever you have turned to find your identity.
How do I know who or what is naming me? It’s been my experience that it is often connected to that which I have the most emotional energy invested. And if that naming agent is threatened in any way, I begin to get very desperate. Check and see who or what triggers these primary emotions in your life:
Joy, Happiness, Satisfaction, Fulfillment, Contentment, Peace, Fear, Shame, Sadness, Hurt, Guilt, Frustration, Dissatisfaction, Disappointment
We all feel these emotions. That’s why they are called primary emotions. But the rub comes when they are threatened and are escalated to the point of desperation. I will never know joy unless… I will never know contentment unless… I feel such sadness at the mere thought of…I will feel such shame if… I will feel intense guilt if …
The irony is this is not a new way of getting an identity. It’s a very old way. Back in Genesis 11, we’re told about the Tower of Babel. How did that happen? A group of people, said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves…”
The story says they are scattered because they sought to make a name for themselves.
What are you living for?
Jesus knew what he was living for. Your priorities and your commitments are what give you that identity.
Nested inside the English word “identical” is the origin of the word “identity.” If you live for your own happiness, if you live for your own comfort, you’ll never know who you are because with one crowd you’ll be one way, with another crowd another way. With the church crowd, you’re one way; with the business crowd, you’re another way.
The only way you’re going to know who you are is when there is you’re committed to that is so strong that you’re committed to it in every situation so there is an inner core of sameness in any situation you’re in.
You have a last name. Your last name is God’s family name.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12
Who am I? I am Joe Christian. No, that doesn’t sound right. “Christian” is a caricature in our culture. But how about, “Joe Christ-Follower?” I’ve always wanted a hyphenated name. Seriously, at a deeper level, we have to stop trying to name ourselves.
What it means to become a Christian is to say, “Jesus is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Restorer, and my King. He and he alone has satisfied all of the requirements so I’m acceptable before God.” That is the ground, the base, the foundation for my new identity.
Many Christ-followers are filled with angst, pain and worry and insecurities. Why? Because they have forgotten Whose they are. And they have tried to have too many names.
Christian, let me remind that you have a last name: “Beloved.”
Christians also have a first name. (Or as my cajun friend would say you have a front name.) The first name comes from finding your gifts and finding the kinds of people God wants you to help, finding the kind of ministry he wants you to do. The first name comes as time goes on.
God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, Abram’s name to Abraham, Saul’s name to Paul, Simon’s name to Peter by saying, “This is the kind of ministry I’m going to give you. These are the kinds of gifts I’m giving you. This is the kind of service I want you to have.”
A friend of mine’s twenty-something daughter and son-in-law wrote an article and said something rather profound:
A few months before our wedding, we met with Andie’s Uncle Glenn who would be officiating the ceremony. While we were there, he spoke some wise, paradigm-shifting words that have become a personal mantra for us as we attempt to navigate this season of our life together.
In response to our anxiety over what we were supposed to be doing with our lives, Uncle Glenn gently reminded us that, “The twenties are for learning.” ~~Team Gandie
How do you find your first name? How do you find your niche in the kingdom economy? It takes all of your life. Slowly, incrementally your first name is revealed to you. It’s only by obeying, it’s only by reaching out, it’s only by submitting to him completely and saying, “The most important thing is to serve you and know you,” do you find your first name, in increments.
Parker Palmer talks about the struggle to find his vocation at high noon of his life and I love this story:
But when I arrived and started sharing my vocational quandary, people responded with a traditional Quaker counsel that, despite their good intentions, left me even more discouraged. “Have faith,” they said, “and way will open.”
“I have faith,” I thought to myself. “What I don’t have is time to wait for `way’ to open. I’m approaching middle age at warp speed, and I have yet to find a vocational path that feels right. The only way that’s opened so far is the wrong way.”
After a few months of deepening frustration, I took my troubles to an older Quaker woman well known for her thoughtfulness and candor. “Ruth,” I said, “people keep telling me that `way will open.’ Well, I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not opening. I’ve been trying to find my vocation for a long time, and I still don’t have the foggiest idea of what I’m meant to do. Way may open for other people, but it’s sure not opening for me.”
Ruth’s reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. “I’m a birthright Friend,” she said somberly, “and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me.” She paused, and I started sinking into despair. Was this wise woman telling me that the Quaker concept of God’s guidance was a hoax?
Then she spoke again, this time with a grin. “But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect.”
I laughed with her, laughed loud and long, the kind of laughter that comes when a simple truth exposes your heart for the needlessly neurotic mess it has become. Ruth’s honesty gave me a new way to look at my vocational journey, and my experience has long since confirmed the lesson she taught me that day: there is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does—maybe more.~~Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Whose are you? For what are you living? Unless you let Him name you, you’ll never find out who you are.
Let me remind you that for all of eternity Jesus and His father had known divine intimacy and oneness. Then ‘Way’ closed behind Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he agonized over what was coming on the cross. He cried out with every primary emotion on the spectrum, “Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will be done, but Thine be done.” Then on the cross, he cried out, “My God, My God why has Thou forsaken me?”
Jesus received his name at Christmas, but He lost it on Good Friday so you could receive your name on Easter.
There’s just something about that name.