When I was a very little girl, if someone asked me what my name was, I would respond with what I thought was an honest answer: “Boo.” Within the four walls of our house, my four family members referred to me almost exclusively as Boo. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to hear me answer the question about my name. I finally learned my name, but even then, preferred to have “Boo” on those cool 80’s name-on-the-back-of-the-shirt fashion statements. And to this day, my older brother still refers to me as Boo in all written correspondence.
As I entered school I got used to answering to Julie – but I didn’t like it (no disrespect to my parents or the millions of other Julies). Any given school year there were several Julies in my class and I just didn’t feel like “Julie” captured the essence of my uniqueness. Add to that, my maiden name was very common, so there were thousands of other people on the planet sharing my exact name. As if the commonness of Julie wasn’t enough, I looked up the meaning of “Julie.” It said, “youthful” which I negatively interpreted to mean no one would ever take me seriously and always think of me as young (flash forward a few decades and “youthful” is a banner I’ll gladly take).
I had definite ideas about what my name should have been. I thought I should have had a special family name or better yet, a southern double name. I thought those people with double names had the secret ingredient to life I was missing. I was slightly miffed that my parents didn’t name me Julianne (Ann is a family name, and it would allow my parents to use Julie if they so desired). I even thought about legally changing my name to Julianne. I decided spelling it as one word would force people not to drop the second name, putting me right back where I started. I left no detail to chance (or our innate human desire to shorten people’s names).
Julianne…. I loved the sound of that name. How wonderful my life would be with that name! I casually mentioned changing my name to my mom one day, but she just kept slathering mayonnaise on white bread for my Oscar Meyer ham sandwich without missing a stroke.
Biblically speaking, plenty of precedence had been set for name changes leading to a better life: Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:5); Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17:15); Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:28); Simon to Peter (Matthew 16:18); and Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9). Maybe Julie to Julianne (1985) would be just as epic?
Except the Lord had already set aside Brody Hildebrand for me and just 15 short years later I would take his last name. God knew how much I would have abhorred the sing-songy sound of Julianne Hildebrand. Just pause and say that out loud. Oh, so awful. God knew I wouldn’t like it and He had a better plan for me. I’m not sure there is a more perfect application of Romans 8:28 “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”
In all seriousness, names are important to us; they give us identity at the most basic level. And names are important to God. In the very beginning, God gave Adam the significant job of naming all the animals He’d just created (Genesis 2:19-20). The Biblical name changes I mentioned above weren’t merely for the sake of change. God changed their names to signify that they’d been made new. It is the given names of Christians that are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5; 20:12, etc.) as a record of those saved who will spend eternity with the Lord.
And Jesus leaves us with a promise to give us a new name. Revelation 2:17 says, “To him who overcomes… I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Given my history with my name, this verse has always jumped out at me. But, before we dive into the new name, let’s not skip the white stone the new name will be written upon. At the time Revelation was written, a white stone equaled innocence. Judges had white stones to vote for acquittal and black stones for guilt. Receiving a white stone on trial meant you were free from condemnation – innocent. Other Bible scholars believe the white stone represents a ticket. In Biblical times, white stones were also used as tickets for admittance to festivals and gatherings. Either way, the white stone seems to represent a token of favor and approval from our Redeemer. Thank You, Jesus.
As if receiving a white stone of innocence from Jesus isn’t enough, there will be a new name written on it, so personal that only the receiver will know it. We don’t know exactly what that new name will be – Bible scholars do not agree – and I think that’s part of the glorious mystery that will be made known when we’re face-to-face with Jesus. What we do know is that the new name will be a blessing and a gift to us from Jesus. I think it will be both a surprise and something we’ve known all along made true.
Whatever the new name might be, we know that it is promised to us directly from the hand of Jesus. It signifies that our reservation in Heaven has been made and it signifies intimacy and love from Him to those who are His.
Pastor Sam Storms said of the promise of a new name in heaven, “There is an identity you have in God, reflected in your new name, that transcends whatever shame or regret or disappointment is wrapped up in who you are now. There is a very private and personal place of intimacy with him that brings hope and freedom and joy that none can touch or taint or steal away.”
A new name is coming. It’s better than Boo, Julie or Julianne or whatever name you dreamed of having as a kid. It is from the One who has the Name above all Names, and He’s excited to reveal it to you.
Dear Lord, thank You that You call me Beloved and Redeemed – I can’t even imagine what other name You have to give me. I will spend the rest of my life on earth looking forward to receiving the white stone with a new name. And as I joke about my name, thank You for giving me parents who loved their one-and-only Julie well throughout childhood and still. Maranatha. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.