There’s something about our family name that matters. It often identifies our “heritage” or our connection to people around us. Our names can be hard to spell or pronounce, making our experience challenging or they can be something that blesses us by bringing connection and relationship.
My name growing up was Tammy Henke. The kids at school would tease me and call me “Tammy Hankerchef.” I still cringe when I think about it! I always had a sense, too, that Tammy wasn’t really supposed to be my name, it was meant to be my given name: Tamara. I tried to change my name several times growing up but, sadly, it never stuck.
The Bible spends much time focusing on names. The twelve sons of Jacob each had a name with meaning; and the meaning got stronger as they received Jacob’s blessing for them on his deathbed. We find lists of genealogies throughout the Bible, there are two for Jesus: one in Matthew and one in Luke. These are present to affirm Jesus’ heritage.
Names are often changed in the Bible. Abram became Abraham when he received God’s covenant promise (Genesis 17). God changed Jacob’s name to Israel when God promised him that a nation and a community will come from his body. Both of these name changes took place when God showed up and interacted in a way that was separate from their normal experience of God.
This is our reality. We all have a name change when we meet Jesus. Life in the New Testament or New Covenant is as real as what took place between Abraham and God and Jacob and God; divine encounters that change the course of our lives. When we decide to stake our lives in Jesus, we are given a new identity:
2nd Corinthians 5:17 states: “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old is gone and then new is come.”
New day, new way, new name, new identity.
What’s your name? I had an experience where I was told to change my name. I was in Kansas City at a conference before we moved to Seattle. I ended up receiving some prophetic ministry and the first words out of their mouths were “God is giving you a new name (Is 62:2).” I knew then, that I was to go by my given name, Tamara, when we moved to Seattle and not to back down to go back to the old.
This was significant because I knew that I was being brought into a new place in my life that was going to be important. I knew the meaning of my given name: Tamara. It means “Life Giving Palm Tree” in Hebrew.
I love that meaning. I love that it is a Hebrew name that is connected to Jesus’ roots. I celebrate my name because it feels very much like the new name for a new time from a new birth. I moved from being the child of Don and Dee Henke to being the child of the King, and from our primary family of origin to the bigger family of God.
I had another experience with my name recently. It was my first trip out to South Carolina for the Learning Community. At the end of our time together, we were told to go and spend around 40 minutes with Jesus on our own. I started walking on this beautiful plantation and when I came to a Palm Tree, I sensed Jesus telling me to stop there.
I heard him whisper: “You are Tamara, and your name means Life Giving Palm Tree. You are life giving to others.” I said, “Thank you, I remember.” I sat down and waited for more. There wasn’t anymore. Dead Silence. After about 20 minutes, I gave up and walked back to our meeting area.
When we were asked to share, we asked what we would take away with us. I said, “God’s reminder that I am Tamara, a life giving palm tree that is life giving to others.”
I was given another prophecy that day that is probably one of the most significant words I have ever received. “Tamara, you need to know where you are. You are in the state of the Palm Tree. You are on the very land where the generals gathered to plan their strategy against the enemy. You are on the very land where a fort was built with Palm Wood that was literally indestructible.”
It was really true that South Carolina is the state of the Palm Tree. I got to the airport that afternoon and there were Palm trees everywhere, in the lobby, the gift shop, inside and outside. I ended up buying a small palm tree ornament to remind me to my new name and the significance it carries. On days when I wonder if I am making a difference in the world, I look at it and remember. “I am Tamara and I am life giving to others.”
You have a new name because when you made the decision to follow Jesus, he renamed you. You became his. John 15:15 says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead, I call you my friends.
We are Jesus’ friends. A friend cares about every aspect of the other’s life. A friend is there in times of trouble. A friend celebrates the significant events in our lives. A friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs). A friend wants the best for us.
My invitation to you this week is to let the truth of our new name as Jesus’ friends sink deep into the soil of your inner life. Take time to ask Jesus to show you more of what it means to “be his friend.”
My challenge is to take it even one more step. Ask Jesus if he has a new name he wants to give you. I’ve challenged some people with this, and every time, in time they have truly received a new name as a sign of their new identity with Jesus.
Then, share it! Tell other people about your new name and encourage them to step into their new identity with Jesus too.