How do you feel about your name? Actually, let me get more specific, how do you feel about the meaning of your name? Do you like when people call you by your actual name or a nickname? Names are a funny thing... funny yet foundational and important.
Today as I was going through a study in Genesis, the Holy Spirit gave me a tap on the heart when I got to a certain passage. This was the passage:
"Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin."
Genesis 35:16-18 (ESV)
Hang on with me, okay? I'll explain. (Also, I recommend reading the full story in context. This is just what I felt God speaking to me in this specific passage, but please read all of it to get the full story (like read the whole book... ))
In Hebrew, Ben-oni means "son of my pain" or "son of my distress" while Benjamin means "son of my right-hand side" or "son of good fortune" as some translations say.
Benjamin'snmother, in her last few moments on Earth, named him as pain and distress. Yes, in birth, he caused the physical pain Rachel suffered, but to name your own child, especially in that culture, such a name would be to curse him and call him "pain" for the rest of his life. When I read this I kept thinking, "Wow. How could you dare call your child that? Even if I were dying I would never let my last words be full of such anger towards my child..." And that's when I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me, saying, "... but how many times do you speak death in your heart over someone who has caused you what seemed to be insurmountable pain?" ... Ouch.
We are all a bit like Rachel in this story. Someone causes us pain and we call them, whether it be out loud, in our hearts, or both, the things they caused us, the things we want them to feel because of how they made us feel. I've seen myself do this with people in my life... calling them names of hatred and death rather than life and encouragement. The Golden Rule comes to mind, "treat others as you would like to be treated", but in this case, "name others as you wish to be named".
We see a redemptive part of this story though. The father names his son opposite of what Rachel named him. He gave his son a name of life, a name that is good, a name that nourishes the sons' soul. And isn't that just what our Heavenly Father does? The world names us based on our mistakes, past, our sins, while God calls us by the name of son and daughter, He calls us Beloved and a ton of other life-giving names.
If God can call that person who hurt you so bad forgiven, if He can call them free and loved and a child of His... if He can call YOU and ME that despite what we have or have not done... then surely we can live in the light of His love, reflecting His heart by calling others names of nourishment.
This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. But so worth it. In the end, when the Earth isn't our home anymore and Heaven is our eternal home, none of the things someone did to us, none of the hurt and pain someone brought into our lives, no amount of thievery they played in your heart and life will matter anymore... so why spend this short time on the opposite side of eternity speaking death over those who are just as forgiven as we are? Let our words bring life, let our words give hope and joy. And let our names bring nourishment. We are the church, the Body of Christ... it's time we start calling one another as our Father does.
"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21