I’ve been thinking lately about names.
If you’ve read my book, Counting Grains of Sand, you know my husband and I had a girl’s name picked out almost from the day we married.
But then we couldn’t have children.
When we received the phone call about our daughter, when they told us her name was Elizabeth, it was this whisper from God: You thought loving the name Elizabeth was just a random thing—but I put that thought in you because I’ve been bringing your daughter home for years.
After she was home and we were learning to know this brilliant eight-year-old who filled our lives with the biggest hard and the greatest beauty we’d ever experience, we found out the rest of the story.
Her name wasn’t always Elizabeth.
We asked her what name she wanted before the adoption finalized, because our hearts were breaking a little at the thought of rotating families and names and all the questions that had to come with those facts. We wanted to make sure she had a chance to voice her feelings.
She looked at me with all the seriousness her tiny exuberant self could muster and she said, “I’m Elizabeth, Mom. I got to pick this name and I think it’s right.”
Of course it was.
But that wasn’t all.
Oh, land sakes, no.
God doesn’t do anything in half measures.
After her finalization, we dug through her box of history. It was just one box, but it carried the greatest treasures. The original interview with her birth mom. Photos from when she was just days old. Her naturalization papers. All the important things from a cross-cultural adoption.
And her original birth certificate.
With her original name.
Because Elizabeth wasn’t her first, or second name, apparently.
It was her third.
We both stared at the words together. She traced the middle name with a serious expression. “That name looks a little like yours, Mom,” she said.
And I whispered, “It’s the same name, Sweetie. It’s the Spanish version and my name is the Russian version.”
I don’t know who chose her birth name. I don’t know if it was her birth mom, or a social worker, or a nurse or doctor. But I do know this—God knew the name and birth date of my daughter from before the foundations of the earth were formed.
And just in case we were worried—just in case there were hard days when it felt like life was splintering—just in case we would ever wonder if this child was ours—He wrote the truth on a Guatemalan birth certificate.
Both from the Latin Natalia.
Both meaning, Birth of Christ.
Or, perhaps a better way of saying all those names: God-is-Actively-Present-on-Earth.
He’s an involved Father, who knows a thing or two about names.
I was reading in Isaiah this week. Chapter 45 is this prophecy to Cyrus, who apparently needed the reminder that God was actively present, and it’s also a prophecy to me—because I need the reminder too.
I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. (45:4)
And it was like the words slashed themselves across me—
He names us before we are His.
The enemy? He tries to name me and sometimes I listen for too long. He says, worthless, ugly, failure, unlovable. But God named me first. Before I was even His.
The God who is actively present here on earth, He knows our names. All of them. The ones we’ve chosen, the ones we haven’t—and He says the same thing about every and any name that’s ever been used to identify us.
He says, I NAME YOU.
He etches redemption into the canvas of our lives. He’s written it into my life—where the enemy marks me with barren, childless, God writes with finality, mother, abundance.
Where it seems like my daughter’s name could be abandoned or orphaned—God’s name of delightful daughter stretches all the way back to her birth, to my birth, and on through history to the very beginning.
Friends, God wants to reveal your name to you. I believe there are some of you reading this who can’t see past the enemy’s labels. They are scarring your lives in real ways—even though you know Christ! When it comes to your name, there has been a blindness that God wants to tear away.
So over you, over me, I pray–
Father, You know our names. Not just mine, but each reader whose gaze follows the words on this screen. Mark our hearts, Lord. Show us our TRUE name in You.
Not the titles of our past, or our hurts, or our rejection—but the name You’ve had for us since the beginning.
Mark us with our true identities, Lord.
Today and forever.