My own parents could not decide what to name me. I have heard many variations of the story of my birth, all of them ending with the fact that “Dana Marie” was not decided upon right away. Perhaps this was a foreboding of things to come, of my absolute inability to decide on who and what I am, my choosing to believe the many names people called me before hearing the name I am called by the One who loves and saves.
In this ever-changing and cruel culture in which we live, we are daily handed names by both known and unknown assailants. For my own story, I assumed the following identities until age 23:
…ETC. I could go on. But I won’t. Just know that I believed all of those names and I answered to all of them in kind. Some were true and others were not, but I believed them anyway. And I apologized for all of them: I was always saying I was sorry for being me, for my own existence. For twenty-three years. That may not seem like a long time to some, but when your childhood becomes out of reach at age fourteen and you have already believed so much long before that, it is a lifetime. It WAS a lifetime.
And on my twenty-third birthday, just as the sun rose, I was given a few new names to try on for size: Beloved. Redeemed. Free. LOVED. Daughter. They were itchy at first, like a new shirt with the tags still in…but after all my wriggling and writhing, I grew accustomed to responding to those names. They were etched in my heart some eight years ago, deep in the places no one sees. But they are there. And I have learned how to answer when I am called, and I now know what my names are. I know who I am. And I make no apologies for it.
Perhaps my parents did not know quite what to call me when I was born, but my Father in heaven always knew who I was and always had a name for me. That truth makes me rest at night and fills me with joy in the early light. That truth is why I write, why I listen to my sisters’ stories, why I encourage them to be who they are and find out what the Lord calls them and challenge them to lay aside their old, bedraggled names. They are more than they believe and I ache for them to know that freedom so that they can walk alongside other sisters into that light of day, so they can listen for the One who calls them by name.
What’s more, I want all of my sisters to know not just their names, but to also know the One who has named them so that they may discover why and how they are named at all. I don’t think I could stand being named by my character, fickle as it is. I am a dreadfully absent-minded and often accidentally biting individual. Thankfully, it is not our character that names us, but His. His character…now that is a mantle I want to carry. I see the Lord called Almighty, Savior, Redeemer, Lover, Giver, and more, in the Word. If He is so, then that makes us strong, saved, redeemed, loved, and receivers of holy gifts. At the end of our rope, in our mansions, in our huts, in our rot, when the day has worn us thin, we are all called daughters of the living God. Amen.