Mephibosheth didn’t start out with such a horrible name to pronounce. In fact, his father had given him a completely different name: Meribaal. While that doesn’t seem much better to us modern people with names like John and Sarah, in the ancient world these two names were worlds apart.
Meribaal meant “defeater of Baal,” who was a false god, an idol, worshipped by pagan nations. His father, Jonathan had believed that his son had a great future before him. Maybe he would one day sit on Israel’s throne as king, being the royal son of a prince of Israel. Maybe Jonathan saw him defeating the armies of pagan nations and bringing down the false worship of a false god. So he named his son with great potential and purpose.
But then Jonathan died in battle, and Meribaal was dropped by his nanny, ankles crushed, never to walk, let alone lead a nation. Rushed into hiding, he is raised in obscurity by friends far from his home and his original purpose. A new name is given to him, or maybe taken on by himself, we don’t know: Mephibosheth.
This name brings a new meaning and with it a new definition of this man: “breathing shame.” How sad it is that the defeater of Baal should become one who is now simply breathing shame.
Shame in what we have done or what has been done to us can become a defining factor in our lives. It can so consume us, if we listen to its lies, to the point we become named by it. It becomes who we are.
I have met some of those people who will not look you in the eye for fear that you might see their shame. It’s almost as if they introduce themselves as “Hello, I’m shame.” And this is what Mephibosheth actually did every time he said or heard his name said. Shame for what was, but could never be again. Shame for failure, yet not his but still owned anyway. Shame that his purpose and destiny now would never be what it was supposed to be.
Shame is a trap of the highest order. It wraps it’s tendrils around our feet and says you can never be a good person, after what you have done. It denies us access to the good things of life and God, for fear of other finding out our shameful secrets. It tells us the God himself is ashamed of us, and keeps us from drawing near to the One who loves us in spite of what has been done to us or what we have done ourselves.
So we give up and allow ourselves to fall into other sin, deeper sin, because if we are already ashamed and separated from love why should we care what other sin we indulge in. And then more shame arrives and the cycle begins again.
This is why what David did for Mephibosheth was so powerful. He called him to the throne room, unashamed to have this crippled prince in his presence. God calls you and I also to his presence. Dirty, ashamed, worried, fearful, crippled…we are accepted into the King’s presence.
God is not ashamed of you.
Just as the prodigal’s father ran to him, putting his arms around him and kissing his face, probably dirty with the waste of the pigs still on it, God desires you and I to know that no shame can keep him away. He knows what he has named us and that name cannot be destroyed no matter what mud we fling on it.
Grace is not ashamed of you, He gives you power to change, to heal, to restore, to rediscover who you really are. But we have to accept his offer to come to him, to come to the throne room and receive his love. Will you do that today? Will you take all your shame and your fear and walk into the throne room with it and present yourself to the King?