Ruth. Naomi. Boaz. Salmon. Virginia. Katherine. Russ. Sherry. John. Jameson. Joe. Mark. Jake. Jeff. Sarah. Dana. Joshua. Javier. Elizabeth. Celeste. Donna. Julie. Judy. Nikki. Jackie. Sharon. Deb. Billy. Maria. Aria. Ariana.
I just found out a sweet young family in our church just gave birth to their third child. Boy or girl is still a mystery to me, weight, length, head size are all unknown to me. But not to this sweet child’s parents. No, they’ve already memorized all the details as they’ve poured over this little bundle, they’ve studied this tiny face and marveled at it. They’ve named this child. Before the birth they had names picked out, names they liked and that mean something to them.
When I was pregnant with our first child, Mr. FullCup and I decided that we both had to be madly in love with the name and the meaning. What the name meant would make or break it. Each time we thought of a name we’d look it up in the baby name book to discover it’s meaning. We were very intentional about the naming of our children. I know we are not unique in this.
Names tell people who we are. Our identity is wrapped up in our names. We see this played out in Ruth chapter 1. Orpah has left Ruth and Naomi to return to her mother’s house in the land of Moab.
When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped talking to her. Ruth 1:18 csb
Naomi had been trying to convince Ruth to stay behind, to leave her because she couldn’t see any sort of happy ending to her story for Ruth. Naomi had heard that the Lord had visited His people and provided food for them. This means the famine that led Elimelech and Naomi to leave Israel had ended.
Naomi thought back over all she had lost, and her losses stacked up like poker chips in the dealer’s hand. She lost her food, her homeland, her husband, her sons, her God. Now she was going back home, back to the land of plenty.
When the two women arrived in Bethlehem, the women were excited to see Naomi back and cheerfully greeted her.
“‘Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,’ she answered, ‘for the Almighty has made me very bitter.'” Ruth 1:20 csb
Here Naomi is telling her old friends “don’t call me Naomi the Pleasant, call me Mara the Bitter.” She no longer saw herself as God saw her, or as others saw her. She saw her identity as defined by circumstances and her own deceiving heart.
You see we so often look at ourselves and judge our identity by the sins we commit or how we feel inside, or how other people treat us. But that isn’t our true identity. If we’re labeled by other people with fake, false labels, they stick to us like glue. These labels tell us who we are and then we live out the lie of our own false identity.
Jesus gives us a new identity–His–when we come to Him by faith. He takes the old us, the old identity we clung to, and re-creates us in His image. But still the old identity hangs on and insists that it is the truth about me. Other people can, and often do, reinforce this faulty belief.
Dear reader, please hear me here. The names we give ourselves are always wrong. Always. Naomi wasn’t bitter, her life situations caused bitterness in her but that wasn’t who she was. She was pleasant.
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 csb
That was who she was as declared by The Almighty.