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Your New Name: Saying Goodbye to the Labels That Limit
by Esther Fleece
Learn More | Meet Esther Fleece
Chapter Six — Your New Name Is Given Not Earned
“You will leave your name for my chosen ones to use their curses;
the Sovereign LORD will put you to death,
but to his servants he will give another name.”
Joel was coming over soon to pick me up, and I hurried to get ready. Even though we’d been dating for nearly a year, our relationship felt as new and exciting as ever. I’d straightened my head full of curly hair, only to walk outside and see it was a torrential downpour. Any curly hair girl knows your straight hair lasts about only one second once the rain or humidity comes. This day had both, and I tried to not let it bother me as we jumped into his white pick up truck to head to dinner.
As Joel drove us to dinner, he surprised me by taking me to a place on the lake. Growing up in Michigan I love lakes and being on the water, and the rain stopped just in time for us to pull into the parking lot and head toward the restaurant.
But instead, he walked me to an overpass and took me on a brief walk overlooking a lake. We watched the rain stop and the most gorgeous sunset unfold. The setting was perfect and Joel surprised me and got on one knee. We had been dating almost a year and had stopped talking about engagement, not wanting to put any more pressure on ourselves. I was honestly content being his girlfriend. Of course I hoped it would lead to marriage, but I had a hard time seeing myself as a bride. Looking back, I can recognize this as a defensive move, since I struggled to accept and believe that I was loved for who I was.
I could Joel was nervous by his shaking hands and lack of words, but I did manage to hear him propose and he certainly heard my very excited “yes!” My eyes were so glossy from tears I hardly got a good view of the ring as we hugged one another and celebrated. It took me three full days to let the name bride sink in. I had been in over one dozen weddings, attended many more than that, and couldn’t believe it was my turn to walk down the aisle as a bride.
I had never felt this loved before. I had never felt this chosen.
Preparing to Live out of Our New Name
The weekend following our engagement, one of my families came to town to visit. It was the Meyerand family, the family I lived with as I finished out my senior year of high school. We had a full day of touring my fiancé’s hometown and introducing our families to one another. It was very meaningful to have them present during our engagement bliss.
My sister Cindy planned a day full of bridal appointments and I honestly braced myself that wedding dress shopping might feel a little bit like bathing suit shopping – dreadful. I expected to be insecure about the extra pounds I wanted to lose and was nervous about how I would afford a dress after just paying tuition at Oxford.
The morning of our appointment Joel called me on the phone. As soon as I answered the phone he said, “how is my beautiful bride today?” The name, bride, kept catching me off guard, and knowing I was nervous, Joel told me to envision God putting the wedding dresses on me.
We made our way to Neiman Marcus and my sister encouraged me to not get attached to the dresses I try on. She told me that any dress I tried on would be out of my price range. She wasn’t being mean, just very practical, and I appreciated going into it with managed expectations. This was supposed to be a day of believing it was my turn. This was a day for vision and for fun. We got to the last appointment of the day and made our way inside.
There was commotion in the lobby and a swarm of dressing room attendants were gathered around a woman standing tall in striking heels, hair pulled back and sleek. She looked familiar, I thought, and appeared to be very important, directing attendants and inspecting the gowns. We snuck past them and went into the dressing room. Honestly, I was trying to go unnoticed. I didn’t feel deserving to be there, and I certainty didn’t want anyone to label me as broke and unable to pay for these designer gowns.
Once I got to my dressing room, I curiously did a quick google search to find out who this important woman was. It didn’t take long for me to find: the woman who the commotion was about was Romona Keveza, one of the most renown dress designers in the world. She was there for a trunk show showcasing her wedding dresses. She has made dresses for some of the leading ladies around the world, including Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, and Kendall Jenner. I was stunned!
But even more stunned when I emerged from the dressing room in a gown to find her right in front of me. Romona approached me and said she could tell I was the bride-to-be. It was like other people could see me being a bride even before I could. She affirmed my sense of style and asked if I would try on some of her dresses.
She must think I am somebody else, I thought to myself.
The first wedding gown she had me try on was a $17,000.00 dress made for a literal princess. It was the most beautiful garment I had ever laid eyes on—sweeping satin, sequin detail, a sweetheart neckline. Romona told me the dress took an entire year to make, and I was the first woman in the world to try it on. It hugged my curves and was a true Cinderella moment.
I have always loved clothes and fashion, and to have a leading dress designer pin this dress to fit me perfectly, find a veil and help me into designer heels felt like a dream come true. For a moment I thought of selling all of my possessions to be able to afford this gown. Forget the food at the wedding – my sister and I joked—I’d be happy for us all to skip dinner if it could free up the budget for this dreses! This dress made me feel like a million bucks and for this girl who never felt lovely or pretty, it felt like a price worth paying.
Tears filled my eyes as I looked in the mirror and saw myself as a bride for the first time. Romona’s flurry of shop attendants and followers had surrounded me, I suddenly noticed, as if I was the “important person” in the room.
Just as a I marveled at this, Romona walked over to me and whispered in my ear: “This is God whispering to you, ‘You are beautiful. '”
You are the Bride of Christ
You don’t have to be married to be referred to as a bride of Christ. As God’s people, we are to make ourselves ready for Jesus’ return, just as a bride makes herself ready for her wedding day (Revelation 19:7-9). The new Jerusalem is also being prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). Revelation calls the church Jesus’s bride (Revelation 21: 9) and Isaiah 54:5 says that our Maker God is our husband. Wedding, marriage and bridal imagery and language is very common throughout scripture. And it’s never something we have to earn, because in every moment God’s voice is calling us to himself.
In the same way a young man rejoices over marrying a young woman, God rejoices over you (Isaiah 62:5). When we are in Christ, God considers us his beloved, and this is a beautiful new name we receive.
But here I was, remembering Joel’s words to me that morning, listening to Romona and seeing a pattern of my new name coming up again and again. I was a bride, and this name fit me.
Romona pulled out another dress for me to try on, and as soon as I walked out, her team exclaimed, “THIS ONE IS IT!”
The dresses pink tone threw me off, as I was anticipating a traditional white, but this blush color matched my skin tone and pink had always been my favorite color. Romona helped me step up on a stool to view the full gown, and she me the dress was made with me in mind. She gave delicate attention to my curves, and affirmed me that my frame was perfect for this dress. It was like God himself was saying, my frame was not hidden from me when I made you. The words of Psalm 139 rang in my ear. I had never believed them before, but I was beginning to see these words come to life.
- “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14
God knew me before I was born. God did not make a mistake when he made me. Just as there was nothing I did to “earn” being called God’s bride, or Joel’s, there was nothing I did to “deserve” to be God’s daughter. I was His because of Him, not because of any effort on my part. I was simply believing God for what he says about me, that I was made by God, that I am loved, and that I was chosen to be His bride.
- “My frame was not hidden from you when I made it in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:15
I felt God’s eyes on me, and I wanted to believe Him. In that moment I chose to believe Him. I no longer wanted to call myself unlovely and unworthy when he called me beautiful. God was using a woman I had hardly met to affirm that my life was not a mistake and that I could be named beautiful bride.
The Meyerands could see how much I loved the beautiful blush dress. As we walked back to the dressing room, Mom Meyerand said that she and Dad Meyerand wanted to gift my wedding dress to me. Tears flooded my eyes as not only did God affirm my name and frame, God provided me a gift that I could not afford. I skipped prom my junior year because I could not afford a dress, and here I would have a wedding dress fit for a queen. It was such a beautiful picture of the way God chooses us, names us, and blesses us surely out of His abundant goodness.
Romona’s assistant Blake immediately got on the phone to rush order the dress. They added in extra detail to make the wedding gown uniquely me –at no additional charge. This would be the first dress of its kind in the blush tone, and I couldn’t help but physically blush during what would become one of the most beautiful days of my life.
Romona pulled out the Bridal magazine, one where her dress was an advertisement in the magazine’s centerfold and signed a note to me: “To Esther, a legendary bride in your own time. XO Romona” It was a day I will never forget.
God doesn’t just gift us with our needs, he provides new names more beautiful than we could envision or imagine. He called me a bride in a spiritual sense, and was making a way for me to become a bride here on earth, too. In the same way, God’s names for you are better than you could ask for imagine. God loves giving us new names, new beginnings and new starts. He is in the business of making us new!
How to Believe God
The enemy of your soul will never encourage you or speak life into who you are. The enemy will never affirm who you are becoming, instead he tries to distract you, or make you think your new name is earned and not given. The truth is, none of us will live “good enough” to earn a new name by God. God names us because of who he is, and out of his love! When you hear painful lies from our past, or when your old names or identities resurfaces, we need to ask, who is speaking this name over me?
I used to hear things like,
You will never be married.
No one will ever want you.
You are not desirable.
And if we pause to think about these statements, they are accusations. You this, you that. We wouldn’t look at ourselves in the mirror and talk like this to ourselves. When we hear dreadful accusations in the name change process, it is our first clue that this is the enemy, and not God, trying to proclaim identifies over you that have never been true.
So how can we discern the difference between these voices?
God’s voice is gentle and kind. God’s voice provides guidance to us. Even when God corrects us, he does so out of love (Hebrews 12:6). God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and God’s words will always match scripture. God’s words are full of truth and have an everlasting kindness towards us (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s words sound like:
You matter to someone (Psalm 139:17)
You are not a mistake (Ephesians 4:1)
You are loved (Psalm 86:5)
They are affirming and loving statements, even when he is trying to correct us. When we hear accusations directed towards us, there is a good chance the accusation is trying to take the place of your new name. Don’t let it! Don’t believe the lie you are not enough and ask God to help you hear his voice of truth.
When I heard you are not loved, it was leading me to isolation and could have prevented me from giving my heart to Joel. But when we listen to God, God the Holy Spirit will lead us into truth (John 16:13.) The Holy Spirit will tell us our new name by affirming us, not putting us down. The Holy Spirit will never shame us into believing God. The Holy Spirit will never lie to you, mock you or attack you. The Holy Spirit simply reminds us of who God has already made us to be, as His own.
When life is hard, sometimes our old names and old identities resurface. As wedding planning became stressful and bills piled up, it was easy for me to believe my name was “poor” or that I didn’t deserve this. But these were accusations. They evoked the old labels and not the new names God had given me. And slowly, I began to learn to challenge them, clinging to what God says about me instead.
But God was my provider. Not only did God provide a Godly husband for me to marry, God was delighted in our covenant marriage. God wanted to speak words of life, love, and affirmation over my wedding day. Any voice of guilt or shame was a distraction attempting to get my eyes off of my new name. I am not poor, I am provided for. I am not unworthy, I am lovely. I am not orphaned, I was chosen, and you are, too. The true words God speaks about us have the power to extinguish any power our old labels may have once had.
Retraining our Mind
On a regular basis, I ask God to help me renew my mind (Romans 12:2) and I ask God to help me believe Him in what he says about me. Ask God to help you hear for yourself how he sees you. Tell God you need a reminder of who you are, and who you belong to. And after you ask, look for ways he might speak to you. It might be through his word, it might be through a person or it might be from a complete stranger, like a celebrity wedding dress designer! But God wants to speak beautiful names over you –names better than you can see for yourself, and he will go to great lengths to do so!
And when you hear your new name, write it down! After I heard the name Bride from both Joel and God, I went out and bought a key chain with the word Bride on it. I needed to remind myself what God said. We are to take an active roll in believing and becoming our new names. Just as I had wedding preparation to do, I had emotional and spiritual preparation in living up to my name. We are so prone to get busy and to forget the names God has spoken over us. So do your part to write it down to help yourself remember what God has said!
If you have a hard time hearing your new name, reflect on who you are listening to? Have you been hearing from God the Holy Spirit, or is someone else distracting you from hearing your new name? And when you hear your name, write it down to remember what beautiful and true things God has spoken over you.
Old Names and Old Coping Mechanisms
It’s fun telling some of my new stories like being a bride and wife, but things weren’t always as this new and beautiful. When I was in high school, I spent one evening alone in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt. I was in ninth grade and had just gotten into a horrible physical fight with my mother. She removed me from the cheerleading team out of her misplaced anger that my father and then stepfather had left. I was taking all of these abandonments and physical abuses very personally. How could I not?
I don’t know who told him I was there, but a local youth pastor came to visit me in the hospital. Even though I had only visited his youth group a few times before, I was recently awarded the monthly prize at that youth group, a gift card to Starbucks, for bringing the most friends with me to church. It was a stark contrast – losing my will to live while being popular and having a lot of friends. And it’s why this Pastor was surprised to find me in the suicide ward of a local psychiatric hospital. There was so much going on in my life at the time. My father going to jail, my step-father leaving us, my mother’s abuse. I remember trying to cope when a friend in school took his life by suicide. It was the first time the enemy accused me with such destructive lies: your life is not worth living, things will never get better, you can end things yourself.
Within myself, I didn’t have what it took to live into the new identity that was already mine. I needed God’s true word spoken over my life—in God’s power and not in my own.
I never thought suicide was a good idea, I just thought it was my only way out. I felt like the people I cared about the most had abandoned me, and I was waiting for God to leave me, too. I wasn’t hearing people talking about God being a man of sorrows and someone familiar with grief. I had yet to learn about Jesus’ tears over what God was asking Him to do, or Jesus’ tears for his own friends. I wish I’d known that crying can sometimes be the healthiest response to emotional pain.
The pastor who showed up, only in his twenties but with a deep love for and knowledge of God, said to me, “Esther, you are the last person I would expect to take your life. You have so much going for you. Why do you want to do this?”
He saw the awards, the recognition, and he heard my laugh and saw my smile. But my outsides had fooled many people about what was inside. I replied, “Everyone in my life who loves me leaves me, I am sure God is the next to leave. Somehow even when people assured me “God loves you” those words stirred up fear in my unsettled heart.” I was allowing the old labels like “unwanted” and “unloved” to stick.
I would have preferred my life end than suffer the pain of being abandoned by God. The “don’t be anxious about anything” Bible verse on my new journal was just not helping. It’s easy for people to encourage us to pray anxiety away when they have never experienced anxiety themselves.
All of us have things to us that feel worse than death. The thing you just think you could not make it through. Maybe it is a divorce, or the death of a loved one, sudden unemployment or news of a betrayal. Or maybe there are dreams and desire you don’t think you can live without – like the hope for marriage or the desire for a baby. For me, the thing worse than death was abandonment. After being cut off from all of my biological family, I felt defeated and unable to go on. Whenever this pain resurfaced, I would be triggered to go back into my old coping mechanisms. That pain made room for the enemy to remind me of the old labels that denied the new names God had given me: daughter, loved, chosen.
Attacks Come as God Changes Us
Two decades after my first unsuccessful suicide attempt, and just six month into our marriage, Joel and I came home to a certified letter from an unknown law office in Florida.
My heart sank, and I imagined this had something to do with my father because of the Florida mailing address. The first thing that came to mind was that he was in some legal trouble that I was going to need to sort out and finalize. Part of my father’s mental illness revealed itself in his habit of filing law suits for petty and frivolous things. How is my father still wounding me, I thought to myself? We opened the letter and it read:
I could barely breathe as I kept reading. The lawsuit was directed at heirs of my father, for unpaid homeowners association fees for over $11,000.00. A steep fee for failing to cut the grass in front of a low-income condo building! The Home Owner’s Association filed suit, giving us twenty-days to respond.
How was my new life, with a new name, being disrupted like this again? Why wouldn’t my past stay in the past? How would we fight this as a new married couple struggling to pay our bills? Even after we receive our new names, the enemy will come knocking at our door to attempt to convince us that we’re not really new. This voice hisses that we’re the same old person, burdened with the same old labels we once wore. Sometimes the enemy deceives us in subtle ways, and sometimes he overplays his cards. Even living as Esther Allen, there were times I had to deal with my old name.
I felt like my father was taking advantage of me all over again, and I doubted God’s protection. My father was deceased, yet he was still causing me pain. He had left me decades prior, yet he still had the ability to deeply wound me. A friend of mine called this “pains from the grave” and my emotional response was to feel trapped by my old feelings of being an unloved daughter. I was forgetting to live out of my new name.
I loved my new life, my new name, and my husband, but felt those old familiar feelings of wanting to die again creeping back. This pain went so deep, triggering memories of my abandonment from that entire side of the family, that suicidal thoughts again entered my mind. My despair felt wild and spiraling, even in the midst of this beautiful life I was now living. I just couldn’t reconcile this pain with my current circumstances. My brother and I became at odds, and I grieved losing my last family member. I was deeply in love with God, and deeply distressed at the new sufferings brought about because the name on my birth certificate matched the one on my father’s. His name was pulling me back to a reality I had fought so hard to break free from.
When God speaks over us and gives us a new name, we can expect an attack from the enemy to be right around the corner. There was no way a Home Owner’s Association for a condominium development should sue estranged children for thousands of dollars when their father dies. In a similar way, the enemy throws things at you, with a goal of stealing your focus off of your new name, lying to you about your old name, or taking you out altogether. Maybe an old relationship will resurface that sets you off track, or a job loss happens causing you to doubt yourself and God. Be on the look out for something or someone trying to get you off track causing you to forget or lose sight of what God has recently done inside of you.
During this time, I was battling again with the label fatherless. My emotions went haywire as I felt shame from my past and my last name “Fleece.” My excited emotions as a new bride faded as I was plagued with anxiety for how this lawsuit might unfold. How would this affect my marriage? How would we respond to the court? Would I lose my brother forever?
This time I did not really want to die, I was truly very happily married, I just didn’t want to live through the ongoing family pain again and again. Sometimes our pain is too deep for words, and we would do anything to escape it.
Old labels triggered old lies. Would I always be forgotten? Would life always be hard? I wondered why my new name didn’t protect me from the attacks of the enemy? Why doesn’t our new life allow us to escape old pains?
God gives us A “Save me” Prayers to Help Us Endure
Maybe you’re not tempted with suicidal and self-harm thoughts, but maybe yours is self-doubt, isolation, or picking up a substance to numb your pain. We all have unhealthy coping mechanisms and go-to habits that come with the old labels we once wore. The challenge for us in the new naming process is to find new ways to cope, new ways to pray, and new ways to live healthier out of our new names.
I needed a fresh reminder of this permission to pray, and permission to lament even decades after following God. God is okay with this. In fact, our tears can often be the solvent that helps to remove those sticky old labels, preparing our hearts to receive the new name God has for us. He knows we need reminders of who we really are, and he puts people in our life to gently nudge us back to the truth on Him. Joel has been a person like that in my life. And during that season I needed a reminder that God would parent me through this trial, just as he had done in every trial leading up to this.
When I was saved by God, when I a child, I was completely re-identified and renamed as God’s child. Back then, I believed that you only have to say the “salvation prayer” once, the prayer we pray to ask hand over our lives to God’s control.
“Lord, I know that I am a sinner. I need your help. I believe Jesus died for my sin. Forgive me of my sin and help me live for you. Amen.”
Knowing God’s name is important for our salvation:
We call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Romans 10:13
Our sins are forgiven because of the name of Jesus. 1 John 2:12
Have you ever wondered why the word “name” appears in these scriptures? Why aren’t we just saved? Why is it saved in the name of the Lord? Perhaps it is because we will call on his name to be saved, and we will still need his name even after we are made new!
God is still Saving us!
While we only need to ask God into our heart once for our eternal salvation, “save me” is a very common prayed for those of us who are already saved. The lie we’re tempted to believe is that after God saves our souls once, that we’re on our own to buckle down, live right, and run our own lives. The lie is that we don’t still need God to save us because we can somehow manage to live into our new identities on our own.
Except, we can’t.
We still need God to save us. To name us. To re-identify us.
There is a save me prayer for salvation, but there is also a save me prayer for those who are already belong to God. This prayer will be ongoing for us, even after we get our new name.
When Paul says in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” save (klaio) means to be rescued and delivered from the power sin and death.
The “save me” prayer also appears in other forms. The Psalmist cried, “Save me, for I am yours. I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:94 This save me (yasha) is used in the prayers of believers when they ask to be helped, to persevere, to be saved from adversaries, to be saved from violence, and more. This “save me” prayer is what I could pray to be saved by evil threats (Psalm 57:3) and even to be saved from my terror of my father (Psalm 59:2).
When I received that notice about the lawsuit in the mail, I needed a “save me” prayer again!
Throughout the re-naming process, we will cry out “save me,” asking God—who has called us daughter or son—to be our helper. When we pray “Save me,” we are affirming God’s sovereignty and power to deliver us, humbly acknowledging that it is God who re-identifies us, and not ourselves.
And when we stop praying “save me,” we get confident in our own abilities to save ourselves. So we pray “save me” as we cry out to God for our new names.
We hear these kinds of prayers throughout the book of Psalms. David, a man who is known by God and loved by God asks God to save him. “Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me,” (Psalm 51:14). Just a few chapters later in Psalm 55, David says, “I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” One of God’s names is “the God who saves me.” God must never tire of hearing his children asking Him to save.
Have you asked God to save you? Once you were his, have you asked him to save you in other ways? Do you ask him to remind you of the names that are most true about who you really are? Asking God to intervene in our name-change process is key to us hearing from him and receiving his help again and again.
The book of Jude says that God himself is able to keep us in the love of God (Jude 1:21) so believe that! It is God himself that keeps us in his love and faith, not our words or actions or circumstances. Keeping the faith is not solely on us, nor is living out of our new names. We will need God’s help believing and becoming who he says we are.
My wedding dress was given to me as a gift. I received it by no effort of my own. In the same way, God wants to give you a new name to equip and empower you to live a Christian life. And that’s exactly what our new names do! They set us free from the labels slapped on us by the one who lies, and they empower us to be who we really are: God’s beloved.
REFLECTION: Do you believe God has good gifts for you? What do you know and believe about the character of God? Do you believe God is for you? What can you ask God for?
PRAYER OF PETITION: Thank you, Lord, that you do not withhold good from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). Help me to walk uprightly. If you did not spare your own son, but gave him up for me, how will you, with him, graciously give me all things? Thank you that you are for me. Please call me a name based on who you are, and not what I’ve done. Thank you for giving good gifts to your children. Help me to receive all that you have for me. Because your Name, Jesus, has the power to save, Amen.
VERSES TO BELIEVE: Romans 8:32 James 1:17
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