This week my kids and I threw ourselves and some lunch into the car to gather with a friend and her kids. As happens often to the conversations between mothers at home with their young children, our words were both limited and guided by the presence of 6 sets of little ears and mouths in very close proximity. She was preparing for news of a possible miscarriage and I shared with her how we suffered the miscarriage of my daughter’s twin in my first pregnancy. My 5 year-old asked what was the name of that baby. I told her that we had not named her since we never got to meet her but that I thought we would know her in heaven and that Jesus would have given her a name.
We pondered that idea for awhile: What it would be like to meet the children we carried but never saw and to learn their names. How Jesus would give the best names; perfectly fitting. How they’d be called by names of wholeness because in their forever homes they would be both whole and wholly known.
I wondered if in heaven we all might receive a new name. I recalled reading a Bible verse that said something like that, but I wasn’t sure of the details. We remembered the times when God renamed people as an indication of their new identities in Him: Sarah, Abraham, Paul. As happens when little ones are present, our conversation remained inconclusive. Thoughts and words floated in the air around us, ungathered and unspoken, eventually dispersed by the more persistent stream of needs and requests from our children.
Then a few days later, I received an email from another friend. We are planning a woman’s event and she mentioned an activity that she wanted to do that involved sharing in a very succinct way, just a few words, our stories and our identities. And for some reason I didn’t quite immediately understand, I had a strong, visceral reaction against the idea. Suddenly overcome by an itchy and hot rash of emotions, so uncomfortable was I with the thought of this activity, that I immediately called her. My friend said something like “Naming can be powerful” and then I understood why my feelings against the idea had been so intense.
I realized that the reaction I was having to the idea was, in fact, shame. I hadn’t yet consciously thought about which few words would tell the story of how I’d become a new creation. I hadn’t yet considered the positive identity, words of redemption and restoration, that were the actual intention of the activity. My knee jerk impulse had been based on the as-of-yet unrecognized assumption that the activity would reveal me as I saw myself, not as God sees me. My brain had automatically associated the activity with the names I still sometimes hold on the placard over my heart; the old fallback identity. The words that I too easily believe about myself when I’m experiencing despair or loneliness or exhaustion or failure: Forsaken. Worthless. Damaged. Deserted. Unlovely.
My reaction to that activity made me realize the extent to which I still hold in my own mind and heart a core identity, a name, that is not one of wholeness or new life. Sometimes, to be honest probably most of the time, I feel buried in that broken and weak identity. In an everyday life that is chaotic and messy and that I can’t seem to transcend to live as a completely new creation. Some days it seems impossible to reconcile the reality of the person that I am, here and now, with the truth of the identity that I have in Christ And then I begin to doubt: Can I feel this way and really and truly be that new person? How can I be so broken and still be in Christ?
It comes down to this: I cannot trust in the way I feel about myself as an indication of my identity or worth to Him. I cannot trust in my emotions or attitudes (surface or buried ones, those we label “good” or “bad”) to earn or claim my identity in Him. I can trust Jesus and Jesus alone.
By placing my trust in Him, He has taken on my brokenness, my pain, my sorrow, my damage, my sickness, my sins and died with them at the cross. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength (2 Corinthians 13:14).
This promise of glory and strength will not be fully realized until we are in heaven. But in the meantime, I am hidden with Christ in God. The weak and broken person that I am is there, held perfectly together in Him. Healed by Him. Made perfect in Him. Strengthened in Him. Whole in Him. While I am living this side of heaven, I am none of those things in myself. But (and this is the most important but still apparently incomprehensible part to me) in Him I am seen that way by God and am counted as such.
Most days, I feel so far from whole or holy that I am not sure I would even be able to recognize a complete and healed version of myself were I to get a glimpse of my eternal identity. But after my conversations this week, I started to wonder: By what name might I be called when I get to my forever home?
I went into scripture and looked for those passages that referred to our new heavenly name. I found the verse of which I’d been thinking and there are a few other verses that refer to a new name as well. But what gets interesting is trying to discern whether there will be a new name for each believer or whether the new name will be Jesus’ and will refer to the completed work of Christ over all Christians.
At first I was admittedly a bit disappointed by the interpretation of the “new name” passages which took the emphasis off of a unique and individual new name that each of us might receive. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that being so wholly and permanently identified with Christ and as Christ’s own is really the important thing. After all, His is the name above all other names. The name at which every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. The name that accomplishes the healing, cleansing, sanctifying, justifying and saving work for which we all yearn. All power and all authority and all glory are His and are imparted through THAT name.
Whether or not I’ll actually be called something besides Rachel, the promise is that I will be whole, once and for all, in my forever home. All of us in Him will be. And this IS our eternal and irrevocable identity in the eyes of the only One who matters:
English Standard Version (ESV)
2 The nations shall see your righteousness, all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5… and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.