On Labels

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We spent the past weekend on our church’s family retreat.  The retreat is primarily for families with young children, and it’s a time for them to disconnect from their busy lives and reconnect with God and one another. It’s a crazy, fun, exhausting weekend. We sang hymns, played games, went on scavenger hunts, ate excessive amounts of sugar, watched the Cubs advance to the World Series, and stayed up late catching up on life.  And we talked about identity.

Our speaker for the weekend began by bringing up some of the labels we wear—either because we’ve given them to ourselves or because someone else has put them on us.  Things like parents, wife, husband, daughter, son, friend, colleague.  Things like christian, republican, democrat, feminist, liberal, conservative.  Things like busy, aggressive, competitive, tired, young, old, capable, accomplished, strong.

We wear these labels—sometimes proudly and sometimes with shame.  Sometimes we put these labels on ourselves because we think that’s who the world wants us and needs us to be. Sometimes it’s just who we feel we need to be in order to get approval from everyone else.

But the truth is that none of these labels tell the whole story.  They don’t reveal what makes us special, what makes us beloved. They don’t offer any real insight into who we are at our very core—the people we were created to be.

We talked about the fact that there are only two people who have the right the label something—the creator and the purchaser.  The only one who has the right to label us is the One who made us.  The One who created us from dust, who knit us together in the womb calls us beloved.  He calls us important, unique, and strong. He calls us child of God.

Some days it’s hard to say which is more difficult—to see ourselves that way or to see others that way. I get to sit in the promise and the truth that I am a beloved child of God, but I also have to acknowledge that every other person I meet is a child of God, too. The person whose political views I disagree with and the person who posts hateful comments on Facebook.

Today I am thankful that God is so much bigger than my limited view of the world and who I am. And I’m especially thankful that God sees what I sometimes miss from where I am.

 

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