2 Name Changes that will Transform Your Life

What’s worthwhile often isn’t easy. In an earlier interview, my friend and marriage mentor Tami Myer reminded me of this truth about relationships when she said, “Marriage is not easy, but the best things in life never are.”

While marriage is certainly one of the best things in my life, I didn’t realize that changing my  name would be one of the “not easy” parts.  Although the Knot cites that keeping one’s maiden name is a growing trend, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I opted to change my name, but I had no idea how painful the process would be. (The Knot also provides a helpful checklist for the majority of brides who do still choose to adopt their husband’s name.)

Did you know there is no way to make an appointment at the social security office to start the ball rolling with this process? Well, there isn’t. You sit there and hope a few dozen other people didn’t decide to change their name the same day you did. For that matter, you can’t make an appointment with the DMV either, so go prepared with a good book.

Also, if you happen to buy a plane ticket in your maiden name and then update your driver’s license before the trip, be prepared for extra inconvenience and possible embarrassment, courtesy of TSA. Enough said.

Whether you’re single or married, you’re getting your name changed one day. That is, if you’re God’s child. The good news is that no social security office or TSA agent will be involved.

However, for many of God’s children, the process wasn’t pain-free but marked a defining moment in that character’s life. Our spiritual journey may have its share of trials too, but the transformation is oh so worthwhile. Take it from these guys.

Jacob: A New Name and a Wrestling Match

The name Jacob means “Supplanter,” because the character Jacob in the Bible deprived his brother Esau of his birthrights, not once but twice. Sorry to all the Jacobs out there! However, his story doesn’t end with a stigma. Instead, God blessed him in spite of his deception.

We find his story in Genesis 32. Here’s the context: Jacob had traveled with his entire family and possessions to reunite with his brother Esau. Right, that’s the same one he cheated of his birthrights! Naturally, Jacob had good reason to be nervous about this reunion.

As a result, he sent a peace offering ahead of him by the hand of his servants. After seeing his family also safely across the ford of Jabbok, Jacob stayed behind (Genesis 32:13-24).

Scripture doesn’t say why Jacob decided to spend the night alone. Maybe he knew he needed time with God. Maybe he was just being a coward and trying to delay the inevitable. Regardless, God confronted him that night. Scripture says that “a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day” (Genesis 32:24 NKJV). Most scholars agree that this was a theophany or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. This post is too short to explain the significance of theophanies, but you can read an excellent article about them through Answers in Genesis.

The bottom line is that Jacob wrestled with God, and in the process, begged a blessing from Him. Perhaps he requested this out of pure fear or desperation. Though none of us has literally wrestled with God, most of us can relate to wrestling with God through prayer over our struggles and fears.

The result? God did bless him. He changed his name to Israel.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Yes, that’s the same Israel who would become the father of the nation of Israel. However, God also gave him a permanent limp, perhaps so he wouldn’t forget the source of his blessings. Despite all of Jacob’s mistakes and wrongs, God gave him a new name and a fresh start. What an encouragement that can be to us today!

Saul: A New Name and a Radical Conversion

The name Saul means “asked for, prayed for,” and for the first part of his life, Saul probably viewed himself as just that: a man specially chosen to eradicate the stubborn sect of Christianity. All that changed one day on the Damascus Road when God intervened in the life of this murdering Pharisee.

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:3-4)

In that dramatic moment, God changed Paul’s heart. He went from persecuting believers to spearheading the spread of Christianity.

“He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:24)

Okay, but when did God change Saul’s name? Other than his dramatic conversion, there’s no wrestling scene here. In fact, the change seems to be a more subtle one. Galatians 1 tells us that Paul spent three years before meeting Peter at Jerusalem. More than likely, these were years of preparation for Paul. Perhaps these were also humbling years where God brought Paul to a place where He could use him.

When and how God changed his name specifically, we don’t know. However, in Acts 13:9, we read that Saul is now also “called Paul.” And what does the name Paul mean? It means “small or humble.” The man once proud of his name and position relinquished control of his life to God’s purpose for him.

We’re Next: A New Name after Overcoming

Jacob’s new name cost him a permanent limp. Saul’s new name cost him so much suffering for Christ that he records a laundry list of trials in 2 Corinthians 11, not so he can boast in himself, but in his “infirmity” for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 11:30).  The truth is, we’re not promised smooth sailing in this Christian life either.

Paul tells us that we have both the privilege of sharing in “the power of His resurrection” and also “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10 NKJV). No doubt he learned this truth from personal experience. Both aspects are part of knowing Christ, even though the idea of suffering usually makes us squirm.

However, through the trials and challenges of life, we can be overcomers through Christ. Ultimately, the reward is a new name written down in glory.

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12 NKJV)

I don’t pretend to understand what that’s going to look like, but Revelation 2:17 does provide some clarification. It says that the new name God gives to us is sacred and special, so special that only the one who receives it will know it. Wow!

Changing my name here on earth may have involved a hassle and a half, but oh, what a privilege it is to be James’ wife! However, this privilege is but a picture of the wonderful change we as God’s children will experience when God gives us new names one day.

How can this thought be an encouragement to you today?  Please comment and share.

Kristen

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