Sons of Thunder
Jenna Carver | August 31, 2018
The names we are given and speak over ourselves are important. In 2018, we have an entire generation that places value and identity solely in what we are known for: “influencer,” “speaker,” “writer,” “shaker,” “pastor,” “trail-blazer,” “storyteller,” photographer”—“creative.” Other names are given to us, the ones that surprise us and make us feel like we belong somewhere: “best friend,” “confidant,” “fiancé,” “good listener,” “ride-or-die.” Still, if we’re being really honest here, none of those names sound anything like the ones we tend to cycle through on repeat when naming ourselves: “manic,” “impulsive,” “obsessive,” “neurotic,” “anxious,” “bi-polar,” “loner,” “pathetic,” “weirdo,” “introvert,” “curvy,” “loud,” “lazy,” “-holic,” “broken,” “replaceable,” “forgettable.”
Did you catch that?
The last list always seems a little bit longer than any other list of names, doesn’t it? It always seems a little bit easier to slip into those like a hand-me-down sweater.
At twenty-three years old, I have grown up and tried to find my place in the generation that is obsessed with taking personality tests and spends most of our time on social media platforms that come equipped with a “business” option so you can label yourself for the world.
We may have moved on to bigger and better things than the sandbox with the bully pointing his finger and taking our toys, but the enemy is still trying to get his way with his name-calling.
If you look at the life of our Jesus, you’ll find that He is a lover of names, Himself. In fact, throughout the entirety of God’s story unfolding, we see a Creator who is in the business of dishing out new identities: Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, James and John to Sons of Thunder. So it’s no wonder that the created would take on their Creator’s love for name-giving.
What’s important to notice, though, is that when a name changes in God’s story, it’s not because someone decided they deserved a new title. We never see James or John saying to themselves, “I think I will be a Son of Thunder, now,” and so they go around telling their friends to call them by their new title. No, we don’t see God going around giving people promotions in life—our God is not a label-maker, He is a promise keeper and life changer. He’s not after changing the name on our desk or in our 140-character bio, He is showing up to change our hearts.
The problem is, we’d rather be called an “influencer,” or a “creative,” than a Son of Thunder. And there’s usually only two outcomes of name-calling: life-change or deaf ears. Since we don’t live in a world of balance with an enemy constantly scheming to delay life-change, we more than likely have leaned towards the “deaf ears.”
Think about it. When someone introduces you as, “This is my best friend,” don’t you feel something that makes your chest fill up with air? That’s called worth. Before you know it, you’re no longer just you anymore—you’re Ashley’s best friend. You’re Greg’s fiancé. You’re the good listener that all of your friends come to. And while none of these names tear us down or look anything like the negative self-talk that our heads spin for us daily, they still cause a roadblock in a life on mission. Suddenly, all we can focus on is who Ashley is spending more time with: us or the new best friend. So when it’s all said and done, and you find yourself having quick chats with Ashley every few months through some half-hearted texts, your head starts giving you some new names: “not a good friend,” “not good enough,” “boring,” “unworthy.” We weren’t built for name-giving, and we can’t be trusted to give them or keep them. More than that, what we find when we get caught up in trying to live out the names that give us a quick-fix to loneliness is a distracted heart that’s no longer looking at the only Name that matters.
One would think that it’s hard enough just having to combat the emotional rollercoaster of worth and negative self-talk that comes with name-calling, but the enemy is an elaborate maze builder when it comes to keeping us off course. Maybe that’s why he hits twenty-somethings with one of the biggest distractions of all—make a name for yourself. Why would we want to be a “Son of Thunder,” when we could be a “shaker and a mover”? Why settle for “Abraham” instead of “Abram,” when we could have people wanting to partner with us in an up-and-coming endeavor because we are an “influencer on the rise”?
Just like that, we have an entire generation after their own name rather than being after the heart of God. We’ve become really successful at building our “brand,” and promoting ourselves rather than promoting the name of Jesus. We invite people to “Creative Lunch-ins” instead of inviting them to encounter Jesus.
Thankfully, our God is still in the business of name-calling.
When we find ourselves drowning in careless self-talk, leaning into names like, “unworthy,” and “replaceable,” we see a Great Romancer hanging on the cross saying, “You are worth this to Me.” When we find ourselves immobilized by abandonment, feeling broken, Jesus takes us to the empty tomb, saying, “You’re made new.” When we can’t stop coming up with excuses as to why we aren’t good enough for the vision God has given us, He swings low and says, “I am”—His is the name that is strong, and “His,” is the name He claims us by.
The names we speak over ourselves are important. Listen carefully.