“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” - Anne Shirley
One of my favorite stories as a child was Lucy Maude Montgomery’s, Anne of Green Gables. In the book, Anne insists that if her adoptive mother, Marilla would not call her Cordelia, than her name must be spelled with an 'e', because that spelling is “so much more distinguished." To Anne, the neighbor's pond was “The Lake of Shining Waters.” She secretly called Hephzibah Jenkins, a girl who also lived in the orphanage, Rosalia Devere. Poor, unfortunate Hephzibah. In Anne's opinion, Hephzibah was an unlovely name. Anne knew that giving something or someone a name offers the gift of recognition; that it acknowledges one's worth.
Many of us can remember the hurtful names we have been called. I was called Miss Slow Ball once, by a classmate in P.E. Jacob in the Bible was known as Cheater. One of Jesus’ disciples is famously called Doubting Thomas. None of those names however are as awful as the names we call ourselves.
Stupid. Awkward. Failure. Inadequate.
In all honesty, it is true. I was slow with the ball in grade school; Jacob cheated and Thomas doubted. I have experienced failure, and let me assure you that I can make a simple interaction awkward – it is a talent! Sadly, we often live as if those names are our identity. We behave as if we have forgotten Who’s we are.
When we give our lives to Christ, we are adopted into His family,
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:14-17)
So why do we treat ourselves as if we are burdensome and unwanted?
Used up. Unloveable. Mistake. Unforgivable. Ugly.
Only your Father has the right to tell you who you are. HE HAS GIVEN YOU A NEW NAME. It is inscribed in the palm of His hand. It reads,
Wanted. Forgiven. Clean. Beautiful. Lovely. Mine.
God has given you the gift of recognition. He identifies your worth. Would you live differently if you began to answer to your real name? Beloved. Redeemed. Hephzibah …?
Hephzibah: (Hebrew) ‘My delight is in her’.
His delight is in me? Doesn't He know who I am? I mess up all the time. I am inadequate. I am inconsistent. I have such a long way to go.
My sister and her family recently welcomed the addition of two children by adoption. At ages 3 and 5 they sometimes do not get along. They have much to learn, like tying their shoes and writing their names. Even if they behaved perfectly, they couldn't possibly be loved more than they already are. THEY DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING TO EARN OUR LOVE OR APPROVAL. We loved them even before we met them. They have been given a new name and are a delight to our family.
This is how God feels about you and me! Your Father is delighted in you! He couldn't possibly love you more than He already does. He is in love with you, even if you have a lot to learn. We no longer have answer to the shameful names of our past – you have been given a new identity!
"...and you will be called by a new name ... you will be called Hephzibah ... for the LORD will take delight in you" (Isaiah 62:4)
Perhaps Hephzibah Jenkins was not so unfortunate after all.