“God can give you a new name,” the camp speaker declared over the group of teens. “You no longer have to be defined by the old name that once controlled you.”
By the end of the week, over a hundred teenage campers were on their knees surrendering their old, negative labels to God and asking Him to show them their new names. As a counselor, I not only saw campers’ lives changed, but I also saw other counselors step into God’s purpose for them. God re-defined my identity that week too. So many things in my life began to come together and make sense after God gave me my new name. Even though my name is deeply personal to me, I would like to share it with you in the hope that you will be encouraged to evaluate your identity in Christ as I was.
At the beginning of the week, the camp speaker had all the campers, counselors, and staff write down a negative label that they have lived under. Mine were “wimp” and “goody-two-shoes.”
Ever since I can remember, I have hated doing new things. Whether it be the camp zipline or meeting new people, I was almost always the last in line to try out something new. I was the girl who was terrible at sports, afraid of bugs, and avoided mud at all costs. I always felt like a failure because I could never measure up to the expectations that people had for me. I was a wimp.
As a pastor’s kid, it wasn’t long into my childhood that I gained the label “goody-two-shoes.” I always had a great Sunday school answer and tried really hard to make good decisions and do the right thing. As I got older, people became bitter toward me because my life was so “perfect.” I didn’t have to go through anything terribly hard as a child, like family problems or the loss of a loved one. Even though I have had hard times in my life, overall, my childhood was pretty idyllic and free of pain. My life was “perfect” and I was a “goody-two-shoes.” But I wanted to help people; how could I ever relate to them?
I folded up my paper with these words scribbled on it, not even realizing the impact that I had allowed them to have in my life. At the speaker’s cue, I tore up the paper and thrust the pieces into the air. I was done with being a wimp and a goody-two-shoes.
With these thoughts encompassing my mind, God clearly revealed to me my new name: capable. He said, “Miriam, you are capable of trying new things, even if they’re out of your comfort zone, for my glory. You are capable of relating to other people and of making a difference in my kingdom. I gave you your childhood for a purpose, and I gave you your personality for a purpose–to serve me.”
I was humbled to the point of tears. Suddenly, so many things made sense.
I have always had a hard time making friends. Ever since I was a little girl, I have never been able to understand why God always kept me on the sidelines in social settings. The friends in my life came and went, and I was often the one left behind. Through the lens of my new name, my struggle with loneliness began to make sense. I am capable of reaching out to people who have struggled with the same things that I have. The reason that I was always on the margins as a kid is because that is where God wants me to minister. My own loneliness is the very reason why I have a heart for the people who are left out and left behind. As I pursue my teaching degree and pinpoint my purpose as a teacher, I feel continually called to help kids who are pushed aside because of social and learning disabilities. I want to show them how loved they are by God and how valuable they are to society, whether they realize it or not. I am capable of being a good teacher who values every student that God puts in my path. I am capable of ministering to the lonely and forgotten. I am capable of trying and succeeding at new things, by His power and for His glory. By God’s unfailing grace, I am capable.
I wanted to share my story with you because I’m sure that you have an old label hanging over your head too, whether self-imposed or given to you by someone else. I speak from experience when I say that it is so freeing to let God rid you of that title and give you a brand new one. You have a purpose too, and your identity is not in that old label. I am no longer a wimpy goody-goody with no skills or experience to use for God. I am a capable, valuable child of the powerful King of the universe who is sovereign enough to use my struggles and skills to give me a new purpose ministering for Him. What’s your new identity in Him?