But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:20-21
Rather than judge her circumstances in light of her great God, Naomi made the mistake of judging her God in light of her circumstances. And while it might be easy (and tempting) to criticize her response, I have a soft spot in my heart for Naomi, because I get it. I really do.
I will never forget looking out over the night lights of Boston with my heart pounding one cold January morning. While the city lay in quiet slumber, anxiety was coursing through me like a runaway freight train. My four-year-old was in the midst of a 12-hour surgery that could either kill her or save her life and I was a hot mess of emotions. Fear, anger, grief and guilt all tangled up together in my demand to know why… why her? Why me? Why, God… why?
I could have gone by Mara just as surely as Naomi did. I confess to dealing with some pretty intense bitterness throughout the course of that 24-hour period. Yet God is so gentle and tender, and He lovingly reminded me that He not only was in control, but would work all things for my good (and the good of my little girl) and His glory, and that somehow – some WAY – He would bring beauty from those ashes… both the literal and figural ones.
See, we can name ourselves all kinds of things when we start to view this life through the lens of our circumstances. Victim. Wounded. Outcast. Persecuted. Forgotten. Unloved. Focusing circumstances can even lead us to judge the One who never changes by the temporal situations we find ourselves in… but Jesus… He calls us to something different. He’s in the business of changing names.
Jacob the schemer, became Israel – triumphant with God (Gen. 32:28).
Abram, the high father, became Abraham – father of a multitude (Gen. 17:5).
Simon, “God has heard”, became Peter – the rock (John 1:42).
Solomon, peace, was given the name Jedidiah – beloved of the Lord (2 Sam. 12:24-25).
See, it didn’t matter what Naomi called herself… she would always be who GOD said she was, and in the end, she discovered it to be true.
When I was walking through that difficult experience pictured above, I called myself lots of things… Afraid. Angry. Sorrowful. Guilty. BUT GOD…. He calls me:
Redeemed and forgiven (Eph. 1:7).
Brand new (2 Cor. 5:17).
Free (Gal. 5:1).
Blessed (Eph. 1:3).
Chosen, holy, blameless (Eph 1:4).
His child (John 1:12).
His heir (Gal. 4:7).
Friend (John 15:15).
Righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
Beloved (Rom. 9:25).
Most importantly, I am HIS (Song of Songs 6:3).
And what HE calls me? That should over-ride any label the world might throw on me, and anything my foolish heart tries to call myself.
Who are you?
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And tell me this song isn’t running through your brain right now…