Yep, yep, yep. It’s true. My name is not Shelly. I found this out a few years ago. Here’s how it happened:
I’ve always thought my name was Shelly…..I’ve only ever been called Shelly all of my life. But a few years ago, I was in need of a new driver’s license, because my Hawaii license had expired, and I had since moved to Virginia. And I needed it FAST. I had plane tickets two weeks out for a trip I was making. I needed an ID. In order to get my license in Virginia, I needed to get a copy of my birth certificate. So I contacted Denver, Colorado’s Vital Records division online, filled out their form, paid the extra money and requested that they overnight me my birth certificate.
The very next day I received a strange phone call. A very nice lady from Denver was on the line. She told me that she was with Vital Records in Denver, which had received my urgent request; however there was a problem, and would I mind if she asked me a few questions? She quizzed me on my answers to questions from the form, and once she was convinced I was the person who had filled out the form, she told me the news. My name was not Shelly. In fact, “Shelly” was nowhere on my birth certificate. Nowhere. She told me that my legal name was “Lorrain”, which I had always thought was my middle name, but spelled differently–Lorraine!!
This kind lady agreed to send me the birth certificate, since she was convinced it was mine after our conversation. When the certificate arrived, sure enough…my name was Lorrain.
This has created all sorts of issues. Since my new VA license is now in the name of Lorrain, anytime I fly the tickets have to be under the name of Lorrain. Because “Shelly” is nowhere on the certificate, it’s caused issues with Social Security, new jobs, prescriptions, and a host of other things. In fact, on one of my trips this year, I was flying “Stand-by” and almost missed my opportunity to get on a flight because when they called my name at the gate, I didn’t recognize it at first.
I’ve done some scripture work this week on Revelation 2:12-17. A tremendous message of importance from Jesus to the church at Pergamum. There is actually 3 sections to this passage. Today I will only deal with the very last section-I hope to come back to the other sections maybe tomorrow.
Background: This is a church that dwells in a very dark location, a place referred to by Jesus as “where Satan’s throne is”. Wow. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Yet Jesus has this to say about them: “you did not deny my faith”, even though a faithful witness had been killed amongst them. (Rev. 2:13). Yet, Jesus also instructs this church to repent. These are the two subjects I hope to deal with in subsequent posts.
But today I want to focus on on the very last verse of this message to Pergamum, verse 17:
17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Here is a verse, once again, that I don’t remember ever seeing before (not surprising, since I’ve done so very little reading in Revelation). Of course it must be read and understood within the context of the entire message to this church, so I challenge you to click on the link above and read the whole section.
But surely you can see why this verse caught my attention: A New Name.
He begins this sentence “To the one who conquers”. I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention here that the idea of “the one who conquers” has been prevalent in my scripture work as of late. And that the fact that we are MORE than conquerers–through Christ who loves us, amazes me. “Conquerers” is also referred to in the message to the church of Smyrna, right before this message, and also in Romans 8:37:
But let’s look at the last part of this verse….”I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone, that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Another Wow. What could this possibly mean?
In researching this, I found that the white stone, historically, was often used by jurors in a trial to signify acquittal. And a white stone was also given to winners of athletic events, so that they could have access to elaborate banquets. Was Jesus using the image of a white stone to correlate to one or both of these examples? I don’t know; but I do know that we, as believers, can certainly relate to both scenarios. We’ve been granted acquittal: “judicial deliverance from a criminal charge on a verdict or finding of not guilty”, through the shedding of Jesus’ blood for us as a sacrifice for our sins, though we deserved the punishment. We’ve been given a white stone.
And as more than a conquerer through Christ who loves us, like the winning athlete, we’ve been given a white stone.
But why a new name? I’ve given this much thought this week. And one of the things that has come to mind, is that I–that we–should not be surprised at this. Why? Because God has the authority to change our name and our identity. As I found out in learning my name was “Lorrain” and trying to figure out what to do about it, I also learned that my name is a legal entity. On this earth, only I have the right to change my name, and that is through a legal process. But God? He has the ultimate authority to change my name; to change your name. He set a precedence for this in the Old Testament by changing Abram’s name to Abraham, by changing Sarai to Sarah. By changing Jacob’s name to Israel. And we see Jesus do this as well, in changing Simon’s name to Peter.
And He has done it in my life. He has changed my identity. He has changed who I am. No, I’m not talking about the change from “Shelly” to “Lorrain”–besides, I still go by “Shelly”. No, I’m talking about my soul–my heart.
You see, around the same time as this birth certificate event in my life, I was struggling hard with deciding whether God was real or not. Whether He truly existed. Whether all we had done “in ministry” had any meaning or not, because I did not believe in God. I did not believe that there was a God. I spent a summer in Hawaii (where we had previously lived) with my two youngest children, with the purpose being to straighten some things out in my life. To think. To read. To think. I’m a thinker, as you can see from my last post.
I remember clearly sitting on the beach alone, in a very isolated, deserted and lonely spot. I was literally miles from anywhere, and no one knew where I was. As I sat on the beach, a song that we would sing at church kept running through my mind. The song was “He Knows My Name”, sung by Tommy Walker. (video below) And I thought, if…if there is a god, he does not know who I am. If there is a god, he certainly couldn’t see me sitting on that beach alone. If there was a god, he certainly did not know my name. And, at the time I also thought, if there is a god, I don’t want him to know who I am. He might be a creator, but he could not be a savior, and he certainly could not have have a personal relationship with people.
But my beliefs were about to radically change. In fact, God was already starting to change my identity sitting there on that isolated beach I had hiked to.
In the fall of that year is when the “birth certificate” event happened. And, as strange as it sounds, it disturbed me more than it should have. I think that’s because at the time, I was in this strange “in-between” world–between belief and non-belief, trust and non-trust, faith and absence of faith. I didn’t know who I was in my identity, and then I discovered that I wasn’t even legally who I had been all my life. And I don’t even LIKE the name Lorrain.
But in a very real moment, an incredibly profound and exact moment, I had this thought: “I don’t know who I am, I don’t know why I am still alive, I haven’t even known my real name all my life–no one has–but maybe, just maybe God knows who I am.” And in that brief thought, I experienced something in my soul, that I had never experienced before. I was truly “known” for the first time in my life, and the person that knew my name, my true identity, was God. It was both amazing and absolutely shattering all in the very same moment. He knew my name.
I still struggle from time to time, over whether God truly sees me; whether he truly knows me. I have to fight real doubt off through scripture work and prayer. I wonder if I always will. But deep in my soul, I know it is truth. God knows my “name” even when I did not know who I was; in fact, He has completely changed my identity. My identity is now found in Christ. Not in this world. Not in who I was growing up, not in alcohol, not as a minister’s wife, and now not as a single mom. No, my identity is found in my Jesus, who loves me. I don’t know if we will really get new “names” when we reach our home in heaven; it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that God knows. He knows my name.
I assure you that He knows you too. And loves you. No matter what you have done. No matter where you are at. Yes, I know full well the experience of not knowing whether He does or not, or even not knowing if He is real and truth or not. But He does. Take a look at Psalm 139. (you can click on those words and it will take you to that chapter). Take a look at this verse I read just last night: Exodus 2:25. He knows your name.
If you would be interested in talking about how it is that God knows your name–if this is an area you find yourself struggling in–I’d love to have the opportunity to speak with you. I am far–very far–from having all the answers, or even 1/100 of all of the answers. But I do know how God has changed who I am–I am different–and I know He longs to do the same thing, for you.
You can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment here; it won’t be seen by others. (I have to approve comments in order for them to be seen)