Have you ever been called the wrong name? I am not just talking about a mis-pronunciation, or a misspelling but people have misnamed us in very profound ways, calling us all kinds of things that are not true of us. This act of misnaming can really mess with us. It has a powerful effect on us because what is at stake, is actually identity.
I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I am constantly fighting my insecurities, constantly telling myself that I am good enough, that I do have a voice and constantly trying to speak truth over myself. Now, as Christians, we know that God has called us with love, dignity and purpose, right? Deep down, I know this, I believe this to be true. I believe that this is good news for a broken world that doesn’t know who they are. But we have also been profoundly misnamed by other people and as believers we have to make a decision, sometimes daily, who is going to tell us who we really are?
Last summer, back when the warmth of the sun called you up and away from your desk, I went for a run on my lunch break. My office is just around the corner from one of the most beautiful parks, where you completely forget that you are in London. It’s sheer beauty grabs all of your attention- the free roaming deer, its towering trees and the vast horizon of green speaks so much louder than the busy buzz of city life.
Since moving to London, I have really gotten into running. It offers me time for myself and I love that with each step I take, I am reminded of how incredible my body is! I love feeling my heart race, the sound of my trainers hitting the path, the distance that my legs take me. And God speaks to me on my runs, it is time carved out in the outdoors where I can’t scroll on my phone, can’t check my email, there are no distractions. I am just running and my mind gets cleared. Blooming gorgeous.
Anyway, I digress. It was back in the summer and I had taken a run on my lunch break. As I was heading back to office, I stopped and started to stretch. I was greeted by an older woman who calls out, un-invited, carelessly letting the words leave her lips: “Oh! Look at you, you sporty Barbie”.
“Sporty Barbie?” Sorry, what? I look at her in dismay, calling over my shoulder: “sporty, yes. Barbie, no”. I could feel the anger rising up in me.
How dare you call me Barbie – the most unhealthy, unrealistic, unattainable, commercialized image of woman. The image that has subconsciously been filling women with insecurities since we were toddlers. The image that causes women to pick at their body, rejecting it as imperfect. The image of a woman, that is just that, an exterior image. Nothing else
In that one comment, all of my joy around running was replaced with a misnaming. Do you think that is why I am running, I thought. To look like Barbie? Do you think that all I have to offer the world as a woman is my appearance? I could feel it rising up in me- don’t misname me like that. Don’t misname women like that. Now, some of you may be reading this and you might think: “Hunnie, I’ve been called way worse”. But this moment was profound for me. Like, really profound and as I processed my anger, God really spoke to me.
How many times in your life have you been misnamed and partnered with that unnaming? How many times have we misnamed ourselves? How many of us are walking around this world, weighed down by these labels of misnaming? “Skinny, fat, the good one, the black sheep, the perfect one, the damaged one, the cool one, rejected one, the disappointing one, the success, the failure, the beautiful one, not good enough, Barbie”. Some of these are positive, but even then, many of these don’t become just features of who we are but they become part of our identity.
There will be times in our lives where we experience extreme joy. We might be feeling like a Female Boss, feeling proud of ourselves, walking boldly in the gifts God has given us. And then, there will be times when our confidence is knocked, questioned, shaken. I ask you again, as believers, who is going to tell us who we really are?
One of the most amazing things about being a follower of Jesus is that He names us rightly. He doesn’t call you things that you call yourself. He doesn’t call you the things that the world calls you. Renaming is at the very heart of God’s salvation work in us. In fact, the cultural narrative of our world, is in many ways in complete opposition to the narrative Jesus invites us in to. He calls us Righteous, He calls us Holy, He calls us to something Higher. He calls us rightly by our name and if we can fully embrace that, there is no place for comparison, no place for misnaming because we are living out of a place of knowing who we are. We have to let Jesus name us.
Did you notice that the person who misnamed me Barbie, was a woman? Now, I don’t have the word count to go into that because that’s a whole other blog, but as we embrace the identity that Christ has given us, as we embrace it fully, this overflow of peace and contentment of knowing who we really are starts to overflow and we can start to rightly name those around us. As followers of Jesus, we can speak truth into people’s lives as we tell them about Jesus.
This blog, my words on this page, they are part of a bigger journey, a wider conversation that I am on and I invite you to join me.
As a believer, who is going to tell you who you really are? As a follower of Jesus, who is God asking you to tell about Him, to name rightly, to offer freedom from the misnaming of our culture and our world?