The Fascinating Desire to Change Your Name

On Sunday, June 26, Cindy preached about Jacob’s wrestling match with God which led to God changing Jacob’s name—from Jacob, which figuratively means “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “God’s rule” or “God’s royalty.” She made the point that God changes Jacob’s name because God wants Jacob to see himself the way God does: a loved child of the King rather than a grasping, conniving, deceiver.

In light of this sermon, imagine my surprise to read that professional basketball player Ron Artest has petitioned to have his name changed from Ronald William Artest, Jr. to Metta World Peace. That was an article I had to read.

Ron Artest has played in the NBA since 1999. He has been a pretty good player. He is best known, however, for triggering the most notorious brawl in NBA history when he jumped into the stands and attacked a fan while playing for the Indiana Pacers in November 2004. He was suspended for the rest of the season and branded by most fans as a thug. I know that I certainly attached this lifelong label on him.

In the last 7 years, he seems to have developed into a different person. Now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, he received an award in April for outstanding service and dedication to the community. He raffled off his 2010 championship ring to raise more than $650,000 for mental health awareness and is a strong supporter of California’s Mental Health in Schools Act Task force. He has done public service announcements and given a great deal of his time and resources to the issue of mental health awareness.

I find it fascinating that now that he has changed his behavior, he feels the need to also change his name. There is something about our name that connect us with certain events or certain attitudes, at least in the minds of some people, including ourselves. We find it difficult to let go and sometimes the only way we can let go of our past that haunts us and grab hold of the future that lies before us is to change our name.

We don’t, however, have to change the name on our driver’s license in order to move from what we’ve been to what God dreams for us to be; we do have to believe that in Him we can be a new person, we can be a transformed person, we can be more than we could ever ask or imagine.