The last time Esther Fleece Allen pulled up a chair to the farm’s front porch, she taught us how to pray to God when we’re broken. Her bestselling book No More Faking Fine gave us the permission to bring our pain to God through lament. And now Esther’s back, writing on life after lament, and inspiring us to be made new. After we go through a season of lament, God will restore us and make us new. In this new year how can you leave old labels behind, and listen to who God names you? It’s a grace to welcome Esther to the farm’s front porch today…
Our names are the most essential thing about us. It’s often the first thing people know about us, and yet this one word holds far more significance and sacred history than any first impression could ever capture.
My name is Esther, and like every name, mine has a story.
In 1937, a film debuted featuring a musician who discovers a talented younger singer, only to later fall in love with her.
This story line was so popular that it later became a musical and then a rock musical and then a Bollywood romantic film. This movie was remade again in 2018, and it featured Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
The 1976 version of the movie A Star Is Born starred Kris Kristofferson as a rock-and-roll star and Barbra Streisand as the lead actress, who was named Esther.
I was told that this is where my name, Esther, came from. My biological mom saw the name Esther in this movie and decided it was the name for me.
In the ancient world, names were given to reflect who a person was or who they were to become.
A lot of names had the name of God woven into them. “El” is a word for God that is often incorporated into the biblical names for God.
The most common name for God in Scripture is “Elohim,” appearing more than two thousand times. We hear this “el” syllable in a number of the human names we read in Scripture, like Daniel (“God is my Judge”) and Nathaniel (“gift of God”).
Moving to the New Testament, we see names still bearing significance but also being chosen to honor a family member.
Did you know that all of us who are in Christ have been given a new name?
When we become a Christian, we immediately bear Christ’s name. Luke teaches that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Later in the first century, Christians were called followers of “the Way” (Acts 9:2).
Naming matters. Especially when God names us.
Yet there are many labels in life that limit us—labels assigned to us by our circumstances, our past, our deficiencies, the things others say about us, the backgrounds we come from, and the lies we believe.
Maybe we have been labeled a “loser” or a “dropout” or “unemployed.”
Maybe we’ve labeled ourselves “unattractive” or “overweight” or “undesirable.”
What’s more, it’s tempting to reduce others by identifying them by their labels. I hear it when women use ugly words to describe other women as “too assertive,” “controlling,” or “gossips.”
I see it when Democrats and Republicans give one another unfair labels that diminish the fullness of who they really are.
We do it when we label a precious and complex human being as “too emotional” or “a piece of work” or “unstable.”
Yet we are not our old labels, and when we assign others to one of these reductionist categories, we miss out on the opportunity to really know them and to affirm who they are in God.
The good news is God doesn’t settle for labels that limit.
Instead, He gives us names that call us into a new identity that He has crafted just for us—names with meanings and names that speak to who we will become.
God sees us individually, has good plans for us individually, and wants us to have a distinct name, purpose, and calling.
When we become Christ followers, we take on the new name of “Son” or “Daughter.”
God planned our adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, and it was His pleasure and will to do so (Ephesians 1:5). This means that if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a child of God with a new name.
To all of us who receive God, and to those of us who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
Previously, I was an orphan, but now I have the name of “Adopted.”
I exchanged the label “orphan” for the new name of “Daughter,” and it has made a world of difference.
Naming is more significant than labeling, perhaps because labeling only speaks to the titles others put on us, while naming speaks to our very core.
Labels are about what’s on the outside. Naming goes so much deeper. A label is a name you are called or a category you place yourself in.
A new name is given when God does something inside you.
God’s name for you is not some elusive secret that only “super” Christians figure out in this life. No, God’s name for you is the truest thing about you. It is core to your very identity.
Your name may be several names that God speaks throughout Scripture. Knowing your new name makes it personal to you. For every label that limits you, God speaks your true name.
What new thing has God done inside you, and are you living out of the new name He has given you—this name that is different from your old label or circumstance?
Your new name will make you different and cause you to live and believe differently.
How are you experiencing this newness, this kainos, where you are “not found exactly like this before”?
And guess what? One of the clues we’re given to discover who others really are and who we really are is found in God’s own names.
The identity He proclaims over us has been there from the beginning, and it is the invitation of a lifetime to discover the name, identity, and inheritance He has given us.
Isn’t it time we throw off the labels that have limited us, and ask God for our name?
I am confident that whatever suffering or trial you’ve faced, God is in the business of making you new.
Life is full of labels that limit, but God has a new name He longs for you to hear – a name that boldly declares freedom from your past and hope for your future. Join Esther Fleece Allen bestselling author of No More Faking Fine, in this profound exploration of your God-given identity that no label can limit and no circumstance can shake.
In Your New Name, join Esther in this profound exploration of your God-given identity that no label can limit and no circumstance can shake. People might pin toxic, untrue labels on your back. Life might knock you down. And you might even wrongly label yourself. But God never does. Our God-given identity is the truest thing about us, and God spends a lot of time in the Bible telling us who we are. It’s time to take Him at His word.
God’s names for you are not post-it-note provisions; they are names to be studied, taken to heart, and believed, all in the journey of becoming your truest self just as He created you to be. Let Your New Name be your first step in this journey of a lifetime.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]