Being visibly pregnant means that people constantly ask me if we’re having a boy or a girl. We haven’t had our ultrasound yet (it’s today at 1pm, y’all!!) and so this then leads people to ask if we’re waiting to be surprised. Really?? Do you know me at all? Is there anything about my personality that says to you I would be okay with waiting to find out? I am not laid back, spontaneous, happy-go-lucky, or in any way go-with-the-flow. I need details, people– about everything.
Folks are typically a little taken aback by that response, so they then try to recover by asking about baby names. This invokes a bit of stress because we do not, in fact, have any girl names picked out. Michael takes this as a sign from the Lord that we will be having another boy. We have about a dozen boy names picked out, but we cannot agree on a single girl name. I guess we will know in a few hours, so stayed tuned for that.
Names are interesting. Many women change their last names when they marry. We have nicknames that we only allow certain people to call us. In naming our children we give them the first piece of their identity that will be known to others. Thinking about names reminds me of one of my favorite things about the Bible. I really love how God sometimes changed people’s names. He changed Abram (father) to Abraham (father of many) when promising to make his descendants into a great nation. Jacob (cheater) became Israel (strives with God) after wrestling with an angel of the Lord. We see Simon being called Peter by Jesus when he is chosen as an apostle, and Saul becomes Paul after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. Bham! Just like that– name change!
I think the reason I love hearing stories of people getting new names is because I can totally relate. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t like my name. Actually, I quite like it (thanks Mom and Dad!) But I understand the need for a new identity. When the men mentioned above received their new names, it was right after a life-changing event. And the name change signified a change in character because of an encounter with God. An encounter that was completely initiated by God and left each person utterly changed.
When I became a Christian in college, the experience was so totally life-changing that I felt like a different person. I was a different person. I seriously contemplated changing my name. And if it wasn’t for the fact that you just can’t really get away with that these days, I probably would have. That, and my whole aversion to being spontaneous and in any way wild and crazy. I still think back to that time, though. Thinking about how real and tangible the change was reminds me of what Paul calls “the new self.” In Colossians 3:10, he talks about actually putting off the old self and putting on the “new self which is being renewed in knowledge of its creator.” In those early days of being a Christian, it was kind of easy to put on the new self. It was like getting your eyesight corrected after a rainstorm had just washed away all the dirt in the whole world. Things were bright and shiny and just beautiful. And I could see so clearly and it was so easy to make the right decisions. The new self was my favorite self! It felt so good to put on the new self.
But then the new self seemed to lose some of its luster. The dirt came back and got all over my new self and I lost my nice new glasses that helped me see so clearly. It got really hard to put on the new self. Some days I didn’t want to get dressed at all. I had a bit of a crisis and wondered if the change I had experienced had really happened– what was I thinking wanting a new name? I was the same old Natalie as before, nothing was really different.
Luckily, by this point, I had tricked Michael into marrying me, so he was around to help me though this part. He helped me see that Paul tells us (commands, actually) to put on the new self. It’s something we have to do daily, hourly, sometimes moment by moment. I’m not talking about salvation here– please do not misunderstand me. We don’t lose our salvation and then get it back again. But we do choose to remember whose son or daughter we are. We choose to remember our blessed position as heirs with Christ. We choose to remember Paul saying “above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col 3:14)
I think it is a sign of God’s grace and goodness to us that so many of us experience the bright and shiny new self at first. What kindness from the Father to help us in those early days by making the new self so easy to put on. But much like a child growing up and learning to do things for himself, things do get harder. I don’t think this means something is wrong or there is reason for panic, though. It means we are growing. And when we do put on the new self even though we don’t particularly feel like it, there is much rejoicing because we are learning to be obedient. We are learning to remember the right things and forget the things that don’t matter. We are remembering that this, too, is for my good. We are remembering the Gospel.