I’ve been continuing my study into real beauty this week. I made a promise to myself last time to repeat God’s truth every day: that I am beautiful. Even though some days it hasn’t quite rung true, I’ve still said it. I’ve even adorned my mirror with it – really, in big spotty washi tape! Now, every day I see God’s truth: I am beautiful.
This week I have been thinking about names. My study led me to the story of Rahab told in the book of Joshua.
Joshua son of Nun secretly sent out from Shittim two men as spies: “Go. Look over the land. Check out Jericho.” They left and arrived at the house of a harlot named Rahab and stayed there. – Joshua 2:1
Rahab is introduced as a harlot, or a prostitute depending on which Biblical translation you’re reading. Not the best of introductions, is it?! It would be easy to hear that label and make assumptions; I’m sure the two men who went to her did. Notice that the ‘harlot’ part comes first, even before her name. In fact, it almost serves as her name. That is what she is known as first: the harlot.
As a teacher, I am more often called ‘Miss’ than anything else! Names have power. They can come to define us, and sometimes unhelpfully so. When I was at secondary school (middle/high school for my American friends) I was bullied. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, horrible. I really just wanted school to be done with so I could escape the constant torment. A name they called me often was ‘Eliza-boff’, because I was smart and did my work and answered questions in class. That name became a taunt through all five years at that school. It’s effect? I thought maybe I shouldn’t speak up quite so much, thought that maybe being pretty was more important than having a good brain.
Later on, when I moved onto sixth form for my last two years of school, I didn’t get called Eliza-boff anymore. People didn’t mind when you spoke up in class because everyone did it. Being smart wasn’t a problem: we were all there because we wanted to learn and go to university and get the most out of life. I lost the unwanted name that had followed me for so long.
But I got another nickname: Bumblebee. A friend in an RE class started it off. She said I reminded her of a bumblebee because I was cute and round and fluffy. What she really meant was that I was short and fat and frizzy-haired. Not the most flattering of nicknames, is it? She was not a mean girl, and I know she meant in her own unique way as a term of endearment, but still…
Names are like labels: hear them often enough and we believe them. They even come to define us. Just like whenever people thought of Rahab they thought, ‘oh yeah, the harlot’. I’m sure that after a while, Rahab thought that’s all she was too.
Did you know that Rahab the harlot features in the Hebrews ‘hall of faith fame’? In Hebrews 11 she’s up there with the likes of Noah and Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses. Why? Because of her faith. Not bad for a harlot, eh?!
To God, Rahab was so much more than her name of ‘Rahab the harlot’. To God, you are so much more than your name, or any other labels that define you. You are not the smart one, the fat one, the blond one, the grumpy one; you are simply you.
God called Rahab by a new name, no longer the Rahab the Harlot, but now Rahab the Faithful. If I think about the new name He might call me, I wonder… Will he replace ‘Eliza-boff’ with ‘Lizzie the thoughtful one’ or ‘Lizzie who studied my word’? Will He replace ‘Bumblebee’ with ‘Kind-hearted and colorful’? I don’t know, but I do know that when I feel less-than or unknown, He simply whispers my name because He knows it. But even better still are those times when I am longing or lonely or lost, those times when He simply whispers, ‘Hey you, I got you’.
On a side note, my study directed me to the Urban Dictionary online to find a different definition of my name. It was a pleasant surprise! According to that, I am a bubbly person who puts out an amazing vibe, has an amazing personality and is always there for my friends. I think I’ll take that over ‘bumblebee’!! If you’ve never found the new definition of your name thanks to UD, give it a go: it might just make you smile today!