Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” ~ Genesis 32:28
In the Bible, when people encounter God and become changed, oftentimes God will grant them a new name. Gideon became Jerubbal. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel.
Jacob’s story is rather unique, though, in the fact that he was left physically changed as well as changed psychologically. When Jacob wrestled with God, he basically demonstrated all of the knowledge and power that had been taught to him through his journey with God. God could not beat him – so Jacob was blessed instead.
Jacob was given a broken hip, to always remind him of his need for God, and he was also given a new name, to remind him that God had a great plan for him and his descendants. When you are given a name by God, it not only serves to define your identity, but it serves to define your future.
I got into an argument with one of the leaders of my church just the other day because she refused to use my name, Micah. More than that, by refusing to use my name, she was also refusing to acknowledge the identity that God is creating in me.
God put the name Micah on my heart when I was just beginning to take baby steps to accepting myself as trans. Originally I was going to be Angel, or Bobby, or something like that. When I was looking up baby names to figure out my new identity I stumbled across Micah. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge then that I really wanted to change my name, but Micah stuck with me.
Then I wrote a sermon about the Prophet Micah. He was such a man of prayer! He worked tirelessly to bring Israel out of apostasy. I knew, when I wrote this sermon, that if I were to become a man that I wanted to be like Micah. I believe God orchestrated it when I stumbled across my name on that baby names website, and I believe he let me do that sermon (The last one I did at my old church, by the way) so that I could have a role model.
This is why it hurts when people refuse to use my name and pronouns. I believe that God has been orchestrating my life to get me to this point, down to the name that I have chosen. It’s a matter of respect over my journey, but it’s also a matter of respecting the God who is leading me on this journey. People who refuse to acknowledge my name are putting God into the box that they’ve created for him, conservative and narrow. The God that I believe in is capable of so much more than what can be contained in the box. God’s arms are big enough to hold all of the mess that we put ourselves in.