Names are very interesting to me. We string together a few letters yet they are imbued with meaning. Our names are identifiers, they’re what we’re known by. We accept that name as part of our identity: our names are who we are. But what about the other names we answer to?
“And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.” Matthew 9:20-22 (ESV)
This is one of my favorite Bible stories. It might be short and it’s an easy one to glance over, but it is full of meaning and hope.
This woman had essentially been on her period nonstop for 12 years; ladies, you know how disgusting that would make you feel. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. In those twelve years she probably accepted some new names for herself:
According to the culture of the time, she was unclean because of her condition, so she would’ve been separated from family and friends. She was even separated from God. She had no community, was isolated and alone, yet she still had faith. She was bold enough to go into a crowd and get close enough to Jesus to touch his garment. Imagine, being full of shame, knowing the extent of your condition, but having the faith to overpower those voices of inadequacy so you could search out healing! What a brave woman, indeed.
Then, in one fell swoop, her entire world was changed by a few words from Jesus.
“Take heart” could be replaced by “do not fear” or “have courage”. She was likely full of fear. What if, as she was wading through the crowd, she was recognized? What if someone who knew of her condition spotted her? What if she was found out, only to be ostracized and separated all over again? Honestly, if I were her, I’m not sure I would’ve had to guts to do what she did. Though she was probably full of fear, her faith and hope in a better way of life propelled her forward.
“Your faith has made you well.” What an incredible sentence! Though I don’t know exactly what this woman was going through, I do know what it’s like to struggle with a chronic condition. I know the hopelessness, the doubt, the self-pity, the anger, and the depression that it can bring. It’s difficult to stay positive and hopeful when you feel like your body is fighting against you. But in an instant, she went from sickness to wellness. She probably didn’t remember what wellness felt like after 12 years of dysfunction. I imagine that she welled up with tears and sank to the ground in that moment, overcome by what it meant to have a body that was functioning correctly.
I went out of order for a reason because this one word is my favorite part of the entire story: Jesus called her “daughter”. All those names she had worn before, the shame-filled badges she had adorned herself with were washed away in an instant when Jesus called her “daughter”. He replaced that old identity, that old moniker she had associated herself with and brought her into a family. She was no longer alone, she was no longer without purpose or hope, she belonged. Jesus not only restored her health, but her identity in an instant. And he wants to do the same for you.
We all answer to names that we probably shouldn’t; we identify with titles that don’t truly fit who we are. Are there any names you’ve been incorrectly answering to? I encourage you to silence those voices of shame and answer to the voice of Hope. If there are any limiting beliefs or debilitating voices you’re listening to, replace those lies with truth. Let’s only answer to those names that are truly our own: loved, redeemed, chosen, and child.