In children’s ministry, your name tag is a big deal. You have to wear a name tag. It not only identifies you to visitors and your church family; it signifies you are safe. You belong here. If someone is hanging around the children’s ministry area without a name tag, you jump to action.
I’m often surprised and mindful of the many things in my life I allow to identify me. More than a name tag, what are those things – the people, places, experiences, yearnings, words I have heard, other names I have been called – that I allow to name me.
My bio or credentials. The success or effectiveness of the ministry I lead. Dreams I have for my children. Words of discrimination. My intellect.
I grew up with the overwhelming sense that I was dumb. It’s because so many people around me told me I was an idiot. They told me I was not smart. And I allowed this to name me for years until an English teacher took me aside after the first week of class and said, “Matt, you’re not dumb. You’re smart. You know that right?”
No I did not.
I allowed the words of others to name me. Why is our name important? As I’ve been reading and studying Jeremiah, I think we get some insight on names.
Jeremiah 1:1-4 says this:
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2 The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3 and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying…
Jeremiah begins with a bunch of names. Read it again and stress the names as you do.
My favorite commentary on the book of Jeremiah says it like this:
The world of Jeremiah does not begin with a description of the scenery or a sketch of the culture but with eight personal names. The personal name is the most important part of speech in our language, at our birth we are not numbered, we are named. Names mean something. They call us into who we will be. Names are a central part of our story.
And here in Jeremiah, we see a personal God using personal names because God knows Jeremiah. This personal God is intimately familiar with Jeremiah’s life. They are close. In fact, Jeremiah’s story is defined by God closeness. God knows Jeremiah and God speaks to Jeremiah.
Have you allowed something other than God to name you? To claim your identity?
The truth of the matter is the identity God has spoken over you and given you at great cost is never earned or achieved and it is always more than enough. I pray God will encourage you today as His beloved son and daughter.