Who Do You Say You Are?

Most, if not all, folks seem to have an unhealthy view of themselves.

Sometimes, folks have a higher view of one’s self than they should. You know, like the Kanyes. Or, the American Idol auditioners where they sing that one rendition of the big hit pop song but sing the first line in 7 different keys like a cat being tortured. And then they are shocked, I mean, shocked, that the judges hated their audition. They leave the auditions ranting and raving and cursing and their mamas are like, “Simon ain’t know nuthin’! My baby can sing, y’all! Simon ain’t nothing! He ain’t seen no talent like this. He scared of my baby!” (Note: I haven’t watched American Idol since Simon Cowell left. Hence the outdated reference). Confidence is one thing. But not to the point of delusion.

And other times, there are folks who have a much lower view of self than they should. Their history and story fills them with shame and they feel unworthy of love of any kind.

This past Sunday, I preached on one of my favorite stories in the Bible — Jacob wrestling with God.

And I’m still wrestling with that story.

Jacob lived up to his name (or was Jacob’s life shaped because of his name…?). Jacob spent a good portion of his life tricking and deceiving people. And outraged when he tasted his own medicine (how about waking up to who you thought you were marrying, only to see that you awoke married to her older sister? Drama. For. Your. Mama).

I mean, really, Jacob was nothing more than a con-man. And deep in his heart, I think Jacob knew that about himself.

And now here he was. Face to face with God. Wrestling with God. And God demanding to know Jacob’s name.

Jacob was asked his name once before in his life. At that time, he responded, “I am Esau.”

This time, Jacob told the truth. God said, “Tell me your name.” He replied, “Jacob.”

And in doing so, I believe that Jacob was confessing who he was. Jacob was confessing that he is a con-man. And as a pastor said (and I’m paraphrasing), to confess that was like death for Jacob, for when a con man is revealed to be a con man, what does he have left?

But instead of punishment, Jacob received a blessing. A tremendous blessing. God responded, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and won.”

What a tremendous response. Was Jacob deserving of that? Of course not. But that’s not what I believe this story is about — Jacob being deserving of anything. I mean, if he deserved anything, it was punishment. Wouldn’t you agree?

Jacob went from “Trickster” to a man who “struggled with God and with men and won.”

Every time I read that verse, it always forces me to pause. And… I don’t know. Just let the weight of that sink in.

There are so many names that we are known by. I’ve had my share of nicknames, most of them being some sort of variation of “jerk.” (“Pastor Jerk” is my favorite. It seems like an oxymoron, to which I always respond, You’re an oxy moron. Ha).

Just as damaging (if not more) are the names that we give ourselves.

And we give those names too much power over us. So much power, that it can shape and reshape and limit and cripple our journey and our future.

But when we confess those names to God; once we bring the darkness of those names and expose them to the Light — “what was so powerful while it was in the dark is now being exposed and weakened by the light.” (Pete Wilson, Let Hope In).

Maybe then we can finally hear what God is telling us and not what those names are telling us.

You may be calling yourself a loser; a fraud; unloving; unworthy; fill in the blank _________

But God is calling you His Son; Daughter; Beloved.

In Christ, we too have been given a new name; a new identity.
May that mold, shape, and guide your journey.

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