Why I Believe in Names

My name, had I been born a girl, would have been "Rihannon."

(If you are out there sending me mail as "Ms." Casey Tygrett, please read that sentence above again. Carefully.)

My parents, brilliant children of musical grace, fell in love with the Fleetwood Mac tune and decided it would be a fitting name for a girl.

Just so happens, it is also the fitting name of a tough and beautiful woman in Welsh literature who also was rumored to be an ancient Celtic deity. 

I suppose you could do worse.

Shakespeare's famous couple said, "What's in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?" Granted, the context here is forbidden love between rival families but the point is still the same.

Names do something. Names shape narratives, determine the way we move into life, and at times names damn and condemn with fury.

I am...

You are...

When God calls and incisively covenants with people, there's usually a name change. Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Saul becomes Paul.

Think of all the people we'd have to contact and change our personal information.

But names do something. They are who we are known to be and who we know ourselves to be. They limit us, they restrict us, they often support or deny our claims on anything and everything we tend to do.

So what's in a name?

One of the most important and most ignored parts of Christian spirituality is the concept of "You are." The New Testament's blinding twists and turns are highlighted and punctuated by times of people receiving "name changes."

That crazy guy among the tombs becomes sane and clear and beautiful at the hand of Jesus.

The woman possessed by seven spirits becomes free and able and a companion.

The man whose brazen legalism led him to pursue and imprison followers of the way becomes the wild, ethereal, grace-dealing apostle to the "ends of the earth."

But really, what's in a name?

The greatest reclamation and reconciliation stories begin and end with God speaking over His people a benediction (from benedictare "to speak well") of a better name. You were once darkness. You once lived that way. You were once dead.

But now, but now? Well, what's in a name?

You are.

You are.

You are.

The greatest gift we receive from God is not simply forgiveness of sins, restoration of clarity and sanity, or even deluxe accommodations in our preferred vision of heaven.

The greatest gift we receive through formation into Christlikeness is this - you were, but now you ARE. 



New creation.

Write it on your hearts, change it on your driver's license, update your online profiles and records with the county clerk. You are not as you were.

You are set free from that name, it's cycle of diminishment and disappointment, you are free indeed because you are called "son" or "daughter," you are no longer beholden to someone's imagined or constructed version of who you are.

"Someone's" who are also stuck with a bad name, if we are honest.

So what is your name today?