How many labels do you carry? I'm not talking about your Dolce's or your Gabana's. I'm not even referring to your Heinz or your Rhino Records. Those labels are all well and good because they describe the products inside. They help us to make choices as to what we choose to accept, and what we leave behind. People have labels too. We see them on questionnaires at the D.M.V. We see them in clothing choices, or lifestyle choices. So what's your label? What I mean is: how do you describe what's inside of you? How do you tag yourself?
Me? I have used a lot of different descriptions over the years: I'm an American. I'm Irish (that one is a lie, by the way). I'm a Mormon. I'm a Christian. I'm employed. I'm unemployed. I'm homeless. I'm a thug. I'm out of control. I'm ugly. I'm a liar. I'm violent. I'm a sex-addict. I'm abusive. I'm a bully. I'm a coward. I'm a con artist... I'm unchangeable.
But here's the interesting thing about labels. Most of them are true. Except for the Irish thing, I really have or have had the traits listed above. The good ones are easy to take ownership of. Nothing wrong with being born in the U.S.A. Nothing wrong with having a job, or believing in Christ. Then there are those that aren't positive or negative. Yes, I was L.D.S. But I found a better way. Yes I was unemployed, but the economy's bad, and I have a job now. Right? All of those labels are easy to accept and wear. They are not discomorting.
But what about being a liar? What about being an abuser? What about being an addict? Yeah, those are words that filled me with such guilt and shame that I was afraid to let anyone know about those parts of me. I would lie MORE to try and hide those aspects of who I was. This led to only more hoplessness and despair, because I was proving the packaging right. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by all of these tags that we just give up and let ourselves be the scumbag it says on the outside. We prove them right, and just go with it.
I know I did.
But then one day, God showed me a different way. God said, "I didn't create you to hurt others, or yourself. When I made you, you were beautiful and magnificent. You are one of my greatest creations!But then you made choices. Some of those choices were good, and lined up with what I had in store for you. But other choices you made... they weren't that smart. They might have seemed right at the time, but they hid your real potential, that spark, that light, that I designed into you. And those choices also drew you away from me, away from the beauty I stashed inside of you. But here's the good news: you always have a new choice. You can always choose to come back to me. No matter how many times you act the fool, you can always choose to come back to me. I know the hurt you've caused others and yourself, and I can heal that. I know that choosing me means facing consequences for what you have done, and I can give you the strength. I know that there is comfort in staying as you are, and so I have an even greater comfort waiting for you. I offer peace and rest. Wayne, you have a choice. Right here, right now. Even as you sit there on that chair. Even now as you fight inside with insecurity and worry and fear. Even as you cry out in pain as your insecurity tears apart everything you hold precious... You Have A Choice! So Wayne, what's it going to be? Do you choose to keep on keeping on, or do you choose me? No matter what you choose, I love you. Remember that."
I was amazed when the Lord laid it out for me like He did. I suddenly realised that it wasn't about what I did, but what I chose. Would I do dumb things even if I chose God? Of course I would! But by putting God first, He had room to change me and form me. He could replace my fear with confidence in Him. He could make me into something altogether new, a new creation! And part of being a new creation is dealing with the consequences that those former labels, those former choices, dealt me. Any time something new grows, it's painful. And being honest about who I was, who I am, and who I am in Christ, has been a very painful process. But birth, the amazing miracle of life, has its share of pains, too. So as I am reborn in the Lord, pain is a part of the process. But for all the pain I feel, God's love numbs the pain and just makes me feel..... well... JOY!
I love God! I love that He never forsook me, even when I forsook Him. I love His patience with me, His loving guidance and direction. His forgiveness. I can never express enough how grateful I am that no matter how bad I became, He still offered me a choice, a way out. Now matter how deep in sin I wallowed (or wallow), he continues to offer me the option of leaving the muck and the mire! God could have given up on me, and rightly so. But instead, He continues to wait patiently on me. On me! The little nothing in the universe has a God that loves Him so much, that He is always ready to lead Him out of pain and back to peace! So what label do I wear? What's left on the packaging when everything else is stripped away? Simple: I am a Child of God. And that is one label I wear proudly!