Labels. We all have them. Some of them are positive, some negative, some true and some not true at all. Sometimes we feel like we are wearing a particular label, when other people around us see a label attached to us that we would be surprised by and have a hard time believing. Whatever the case may be, we can fill in the blank of who we see ourselves to be in an instant. Sometimes our label is our own worst enemy.
Let me tell you the story of my experience with my own labels. Growing up, because of various life experiences and the interpretations that I took from them, I started to assign labels to myself. We all do this as children; we start to connect the dots from messages that we hear and experiences we have. We then make assumptions from these and sometimes end up connecting the dots in the wrong order. Instead of the picture of us that we should see in the form, we just see a jumbled mess. That's what happened to me.
The labels that I started to attach to myself were "unworthy", "unwanted", "unacceptable", "insufficient", "flawed", and the biggest of all "alone". You quite possibly have attached the very same labels to yourself and understand very well. Now, no one in my life wanted me to have these labels and they might even be surprised to know that they existed at all, but they were there and they were stuck on tight.
I hated the labels and wanted desperately to be free of them but truly thought that they were revealing the truth of who I was. There was such tension in their existence because as I watched other people function in their lives, they seemed to have labels that read "confident","peaceful", "accepted" and "successful". I thought for sure that there was some trick to getting these labels to stick so I became desperate to grab a hold of them instead.
The first thing I did was to pursue religion. Thankfully, I eventually saw the truth in a relationship with Jesus Christ instead of just religion and accepted Him as my Savior. This was great and I started to see myself the way He saw me in spite of the labels that I had. The problem is, I added the label of "Believer" but ended up keeping all of the others. I didn't really think that I could ever really be free from them.
This didn't seem to work very well and created even more tension. Just as I would start to see myself through the lens of the label God gave me, which is His beloved daughter, the old labels would surface and would crowd out the truth. The trick was that I never saw them as not being the truth so they always won out.
So, what did I do? Probably what so many of you have done which is to create new labels to stick over the old ones to hide them. Now that I was in this new church world, it was actually pretty easy. I just created labels such as "performer", "servant", "leader", "disciplined", "sufficient", even "pious". Sticking these labels over the others ones would work for a while but these new ones weren't nearly as sticky and they would soon fall off revealing the old ones underneath. It was exhausting trying to hold them on.
Actually, the formation of these labels saved me a time or two. I had some truly difficult things come into my life and if I didn't have the protection from these, the old labels certainly would have destroyed me. The problem was that God was apparently tiring of the fact that He was just one of the labels among the rest. He of course held the truth in what He brought to me but the lies of the other messages were not letting the truth shine through. I was being destroyed along with any true surrender or obedience I could offer to Him.
That's when He let my world truly explode. I don't mean just a little explosion but one that brought horrific damage. A situation arose where all the labels that I had created to cover or camouflage what was underneath were completely destroyed with no hope to recreate them. Every coping device I had created was gone. It had all been stripped away. Since it was all very public there was nothing I do, no where to hide, and no pretending any more. I was utterly empty and depleted. It was terrible and beyond all description.
But, that's when it all began. That's when I started to break free. That's when the truth started to come through. I thankfully started to get some help from someone who saw the situation for what it was. He wasn't interested in looking at the damage or even the loss of the labels that I had created to hide the others. He was interested in the ones that I had stuck to me for my entire life, the ones that were disfiguring the person that God had created me to be.
It's been really hard and a lot of work. It's hard to start to see something as being false which you had thought to be so true. I have had a lot of victory but I tend to still pick up those old labels occasionally and stick them on. I may wear them for a few days but as soon as God nudges me and shows me what I have done He helps to pull them off and reminds me of the ones He gave me. The labels that I now wear are the ones that are true. Here are just a few:
- I am a child of God (John 1:12)
- I am justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24)
- I am accepted by Christ (Romans 15:7)
- I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- I am Holy and Beloved (Colossians 3:12)
- I am loved and chosen by God (1 Thess. 1:4)
So, if you can identify with what I have said, maybe you need to start looking at the labels you wear. Are they true? Do they line up with the labels that God attaches to you? Are they giving you life or are they destroying you? I encourage you to get the help you need to get rid of the labels you are trying to hide. Let me know if I can help.