285 girls stood in line, waiting for a certificate–a piece of paper holding the power to change their outlook on life forever. These certificates gave the girls new names–names they chose themselves–that would define them for the rest of their lives.

At birth, these girls were given names that in Hindi meant “unwanted”. Given because girls are considered a burden on many families within India, these names have cast a shadow on these girls’ lives as long as they’ve been alive. On this day, though, the girls were allowed to choose new names for themselves. Some chose the names of celebrities or goddesses while others chose names that meant “beautiful”, “prosperous”, and “strong”.

These girls knew a name would define them; what they did was decide what name would do so.

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A popular phrase today is “Words cannot define me”. This is simply untrue. Words will always be able to define people. “Human”, “male”, “female”, “tall”, “short”, “dark-skinned’, “light-skinned”, etc. We will never be able to change some of these words even if we wanted to. Other words, however, can be changed.

And you have the power to change those words.

Does “forsaken” define you or does “delighted in by God” define you? Does “fat” or “skinny” define you or “confident”? Or “healthy”? Or “strong”? Does “loser” define you or does “ambitious”? “Failure” or “Success”?

In the Bible people were given names based on meaning. Many people in various cultures around the world do the same today.

“Jacob” meant “deceiver” and that word defined him for part of his life. But later he wrestled with an angel and received the name “Israel” because he struggled with God and prevailed.

Naomi changed her own name to “Mara” because she was bitter.

Simon was called “Peter” or “Cephas” meaning “rock”. His role in the early church was to preach the foundational truths of salvation.

God was named “Jehovah” but when He manifested Himself in the flesh to die as the ultimate sacrifice for all His name became “Jesus” meaning “Jehovah has become our salvation”.

Barnabas was originally named “Joses” but received his new name from the apostles which meant “encourager”.

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Today we can legally change our names by going to the courthouse and filing a new name. But our culture in the U.S. doesn’t really define us based on the name given at birth. We use words. Words like “beautiful”, “ugly”, “fat”, “skinny”, “white”, “black”, “preppy”, “ghetto”, “jock”, or “gamer”.

So the question isn’t whether a word can define you. Words will define you, you can be sure of that. The question is, what words will you allow to define you? Just like those Indian girls changed what words they allowed to define them, we have the same power.

If you grew up in an abusive home will you call yourself the son or daughter of a child abuser or will you call yourself a child of the one true God?

If you were disowned, an orphan, given up for adoption, left by a spouse or cheated on, will you call yourself forsaken or will you call yourself loved and delighted in by God? (The name of this blog comes from a verse that says “You will no longer be called forsaken but be called Hephzibah because the Lord delights in you.”)

If you have a disability will you be called crippled or be called a miracle?

If you’ve been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD will you be called distracted and unruly or a person full of potential?

If you have a Type A personality will you be called bossy or a control-freak or will you be labeled as a person with leadership capabilities?

If you desire to be used of God, will you let your limits be determined by whether or not you are a preacher’s kid? A kid with no family in church? A kid with five generations of family in church?

Instead of nerd or geek let yourself be defined as intelligent.

Instead of mediocre practice until you are skillful.

Instead of insecure, find the great qualities God blessed you with and become confident.

Instead of stuck-up go out of your way to be friendly and change your definition to encourager.

Instead of loser become a success.

Instead of lazy become a worker.

Instead of teacher’s pet or boss’ pet become a respecter.

Instead of outcast be wanted by God.

Words will define you. The question is, which words will you allow to define you?