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  • Writer's pictureOrdinary Pilgrim

Audio Lectio: I've been called a lot of things...

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Lay down, lay down your old chains

Come now, and take up your new name

-- from One Step Away by Casting Crowns;

hear the whole song here.

I went through a career change five years ago, taking up work that requires a state license. Before I could get it, I learned I had a bit of a dilemma: the name under which I registered for the licensing exam, the name that would appear on my license, and the names on my federal and state forms of identification all had to match.

Somehow, when I had gotten my new driver's license after getting married some four years earlier, the maiden name I had chosen to keep as part of my identity had ended up in the wrong field. Something that hadn't raised a single eyebrow up to that point suddenly stood between me and my ability to start my new work.

I learned two interesting things from this. One was that the only way to fix my driver's license where I live was to file for a formal name change through the courts. The other was that the Social Security Administration doesn't really care much about middle names. When I went to the SSA office after the judge signed off on my new legal name, the nice person helping me said I could have given them any middle name I wanted, and they wouldn't have questioned it.

Whether this is true or not, it generated a lot of discussion about names at my house. What would I call myself if I could pick anything? While it was great fun to joke about exotic new middle names, I would never have been inclined to shake things up that much. As may be plain from the situation with my driver's license, I had been reluctant to give up my maiden name; it was who I was!

I've held on just as tightly to names others have given me, and that I've given myself. The sweet nickname my family calls me, "Jill Bean"... The name "Patches" bestowed on me by a co-worker based on something I enjoyed doing... The name "Grumpy" I adopted for myself, along with a slew of other self-descriptors, both positive and negative...

As part of my path of growth and change, I spent some time trying to add yet another identifier to my list: my Enneagram number. Knowing it felt important, but also urgent since I felt it would let me better understand how my personality helps and hinders me in my relationship with God.

I clearly remember the day I was locking the office door to head home, fuming over the hours I'd spent in frustrating self analysis to figure out who I am. I asked God if he could just tell me the number so I could move on. It was one of those rare asks God answered almost immediately:

"You are my child."

(Everyone is different, but when God sucker punches me with a truth that is at the same time so basic, so obvious, and so profound, I have to laugh a little before I cry.) In a split second, God had reminded me of a name that was not in and of itself new to me, but that certainly gave me a much needed new focus in that moment.

To accept anew the name "God's Child" means believing that all those other identities I'm so attached to are like hotel rooms: they are places I choose to stay, but they are not the homeplace I've been given to live. Writing this out makes it sound like such a simple thing, but I know it's something that will take a very long time to come to terms with.

There is a story in Matthew that really hits home for me. In Chapter 10, Jesus refers to himself as a "sword" (NIV), someone who has come to make a "sharp knife-cut" (MSG). And what does Jesus say is on the chopping block?

It's not the easy stuff, like the things I do that I already know are wrong, or the things I've been thinking about getting rid of anyway. Rather it's what I love most in the world. It's family - my treasured identity as daughter to my mother and sister to my brothers. No one can say Jesus doesn't know how to make a point...

Father God, I know I still cling to my own ideas about who I am as though they are what defines your will for me. Thank you for gently reminding me of the truth through an uplifting song. Please help me to lay down any of my self-created identities that don't serve You, and to come to see the others for what they really are: reflections of your many blessings and tools for carrying out what You ask of me. As I grow, help me listen for any new names You share that reveal my purpose in your plan. You above all, Amen.

What does it mean to you to be God's Child in relation to some of the adopted identities you've picked up? In what ways have you fully embraced your identity in God? Feel free to share your comments below, or share your experiences by e-mailing me your story to post!

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