Say My Name, Say My Name

There is something about names that is very personal to people. It is almost like your verbal identity. Growing up my mother never called me ‘Tinuke’ because she did not like that name. She always called me ‘Atinuke’. My name means ‘pampered from the womb’ but it did not mean much to me as a young child. I did not like or hate my name. It was just a name and I still don’t get too bothered when people cannot pronounce it so far they try. I have had a name ringing in my head all week but I will begin by telling you about my weekend.
I love worship music and I love people so the idea of a place full of people ready to worship excites me. This is how I found myself in a concert. When speaking to someone about the concert, she was telling me how she had an amazing time and I was confused because I thought it was ‘just alright’. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments where my heart was singing and crying out but between the people arguing around me, my sweaty neighbour and an aunty who kept complaining that she couldn’t see the stage, I found it hard to focus. That morning I had been studying the name ‘Yahweh’ in the bible and not-surprisingly for the all-speaking God, many songs had this word in it. It is one of the names of God. I tried my best to understand why I kept hearing this name. How is the power of this name relevant to me at this moment of my life in this over crowded, tiring concert where I selfishly just wanted to worship with one artist and go home?
This was two days ago. Today I decided to read 1 Chronicles in the bible because nothing spices up your life like the testimonies and crazy stories in the old testament. Since as a born-again Christian I call myself a child of Abraham, I think it’s safe to say my ancestors were crazy. I started the chapter and it was a list of genealogies. I whispered to God, “this is my worst part of the bible” but since I have decided to devote myself to studying the word I decided to read anyway. I read names I cannot even recall and tried my best to ask God why these chapters are in any way relevant since they are in the bible. By chapter four, I stumbled on these verses about a man named Jabez. His name means something like ‘pain’– what a horrible name. His mother named him that because his birth was painful- what an emotional mother. Yet, the bible says Jabez was honourable and cried out to God for some things; that God should bless him, enlarge his territory, Gods hand should keep him from evil and best of all, to be free from pain. He asked to be free from pain but pain was his name. How ironic is that? I pondered on that verse for so long because it seems almost impossible to be free from pain yet the bible says God granted his request. It is one thing to ask God to be free from something, but when you identify with something and it is tied to your name, surely, there is no escaping right? Wrong. The bible says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is irrespective of whatever you may have identified as before. I used to be known as angry. I was always angry and joy never seemed like it was going to be my portion. When I heard God speak to me for the first time in my life, he went for the one thing I identified with- my anger. This was rooted in pride and un-forgiveness and by showing me the beauty of his name and the inconsistency of my name; God changed that part of me. When a woman gets married, her last name changes. In the same way, when we decide to walk with God, our tribe name changes. We are no longer known as the name tagged to us before but can now identify with the family of prayer and this family is built on intimacy with God.
I carried on reading and came across even more confusing names. I cracked a joke with God and said, “I wonder if the name Neriah would come up”. Within a few verses, I saw the name ‘Neariah’ and my response was ‘are you kidding?’ There is a story behind that name. When I was sixteen years old, my mum decided that we should spend our summer in Israel on a pilgrimage. My family was not born-again but had many religious habits. My mum was raised catholic so she decided we should be baptised in the river of Jordan and not only that but that we should pick names from the bible. I fished through all the names and was displeased with names like Sarah, Esther or Rebecca so I went for ‘Neriah’ not knowingly that this was actually a man in the bible. Although that is what I chose, the moment my brother mentions that name to ridicule me, I immediately deny it and say, “That is not my name”. Now, I am saved and I love to study bible names so I decided to look up the name. It means ‘light of Yahweh’ and there again appeared that name of God that was so magnificent yet found itself embedded in a name I continuously denied. At this point, I think God wanted me to be like Jabez. God knew fully well his mother would give him that horrible name but God was so ready to free him from a destiny of pain without deliberation because embedded in the identity of every human is Yahweh. ‘Yahweh’ means ‘I AM’ so when I introduce myself and say ‘I am _’ God wants his name to be the foundation of my identity. Just over a year after that baptism, I gave my heart to Jesus and I did become a light to the world to point people to Jesus. With that, I think it is safe to say that the name ‘Neriah’ was a prophecy on my life from the Holy Spirit who had been tugging on my heart. Just like Jabez, we all have identity tags, labels that we wear on our chests and burdens that we carry because of that. This may not be your actual name but a name you identify with be it ‘stupid’, ‘aggressive’, ‘sl*t’ or ‘careless’ but I will be glad to inform you that names change.
Jesus understood this very well. his name means ‘Yahweh saves’ and he lived out this name through temptation, crucifixion and up until resurrection where he buried all our sins and paved a way for us to be saved from death into eternity. Jesus teaches us to anchor our identities to his name because Gods name never changes.
“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” Exodus 4:15
Jesus always prayed the kind of prayers that showed he was seeking God and seeking God helps us to know his name and understand his character so we can put our hope in it. When you date, you have to spend time with a person, learn about their lives and dig deep to know them and this assures you of their character. God is self-defined meaning that he is enough to be fully himself and fully satisfy us. His character is self-determined. We can be faithful today and after someone coughs on our jollof rice, trashes our house and lies to us continuously, we no longer see that person as worth investing in. The beauty of God is that he is not like us and like a timeless rock, he stays the same in his awe-inspiring character. People say that you cannot give too much of yourself to people but I believe you can when your life is consumed with God. If Yahweh is self-sufficient then my insufficiency can die when I am freed from the ‘self’ in me that makes me insufficient, that is, the parts of me that are not from God. Like Jabez, I need to cry out to God and tell him to rid me of anger, criticism, fear, being opinionated, defensiveness, pride and all the desires of my heart that take my eyes of God and into my glass mirror. this crying out is through prayer and seeking the true character of God in the bible. The promise is that those who know and experience God’s name will never be forsaken (psalm 9:10) so I am assured that I will not have to sit outside tis door wallowing in disappointment because the door will always open and I will continuously step into the names that Jesus has given us access to- adopted, patient, qualified, chosen. What am I saying? The name of Jesus is bigger than your name such that just calling on it and believing it to be a source of redemption is enough to transform anyone be it murderer or monk into a child of God. It all starts with the name. The earth started after God’s name and even when this earth is gone, the certainty of this name will remain. That should give us confidence to shout it or even whisper it in every situation and see that the ‘I AM’ of life wants to be our ‘I AM’ not just as a prefix but also to us, he is to be everything.
What a love.


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