What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

(Romeo and Juliet: II, ii, 1-2)

How important is your name to you?

Does it define you or do you define it?

Our names are important because they give us an identity. They make us irreducible to mass generalisation. Your name encapsulates who you are.

Our sense of identity is incredibly important. It gives us a sense of purpose,of belonging. If we don’t know who we are we become lost.

The animals were introduced to Adam in categories – it wasn’t about the individual but the group or the species which had to be identified. But amongst them Adam does not find a companion. He wants a personal other to whom he can relate. He needs a person with a name, with an identity, not just another category.

And so God creates Eve.

From the beginning we are given our identity by God. From the beginning of time and the beginning of our own lives. After all, he did knit us together in the womb and our days were written in his book before they came to be (Psalm 139). I think one of the hardest things for us to do as human beings is accept our identity in God. You’ve certainly heard more than your fair share of my struggles with it. Having to set to the side and walk away from our old identity which were caught up in the opinions of others, restrained by our apparent worth or usefulness in the world, beat down by our own shame and afflictions, is hard. Picking up, accepting, embodying our new identity in Christ is hard. To believe that we are loved – in our sinful, broken state – is hard. To know that we are lovable is hard. But God calls us his children (Rom 8:14). Jesus calls us friend (John 15:15). God says we are chosen (Col 3:12). All this whilst we are still sinners (Rom 5:6).

When we read on into Genesis chapter 3 we see the breaking down of language and identity begin. With the displacement of responsibility from Adam to Eve to the Serpent, we see language fall from “I” to “Her” to “it”. As the world breaks so do our relationships. As we lose our identity we lose our ability to relate to others. In losing our understanding of ourself we can no longer understand others. Barriers are created and we lose an intimacy. From here on in, it is easy for us to make people mere objects.

In not knowing our true identity we abuse ourselves by trying to fulfil plans that were never meant for us. We tear ourselves up and beat ourselves down because we’re not worthy – though none of us can pinpoint what of. We try to create identities but with what we think people expect and not the truth. Misunderstanding our own identities enables us to devalue other people’s as well. People become objects, a “who” becomes a “what”. When the enemy isn’t a person but a people they are easier to attack.

Identity is vital. Knowing our identity in Christ and accepting it, more so.

Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name you are mine

– Isaiah 43:1

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