Aren’t they nice?
I mean, growing up, I was very familiar with labels. GAP and Guess were two labels that were important in the 80’s, and your jeans needed labels (at least at the prep schools I went to) or you needed to accept your nerdhood.
Well, most of the time I accepted nerdhood, because we couldn’t afford those ‘labels’ unless they were found on the Goodwill rack.
Later as an older kid, after I stopped caring about labels on jeans, I started to realize that people are labelled. “Popular”… “Loser”… “Gorgeous”… “Slow”… “Geek”… “Fat”… “Skinny”… “Athletic”… “Smart”… “Last picked for the basketball team while the coach doesn’t care about your humilition” (OK, can you tell I experienced that last one?) … and countless others. It doesn’t take long for kids to realize their so-called label. Schools make it obvious, and so does the world.
In elementary school, I was labelled “Skinny, Smart, Geek, Blind, and Poor.” Later in high school, I was labelled “Outgoing, (still poor), Hangs out with Boys Too Often, Friendly, Pro-life Freak, and… Still Poor” (Private schools were pretty relentless with the whole poor thing.)
After high school, in my young adult life, people labelled me “Single, Catholic, Outgoing, Still hanging out with too many Boys, Wild, Passionate, Pro-life”… and then “Fallen Away Catholic, Very Wild, Druggie, Party Animal, Wealthy, Popular, Still hanging out with too many boys ;), Lost, Conflicted…” and then “Missionary, Charismatic Catholic, Finally calmed down on the boy thing (whew!), Seeking to be married (aka dated a lot), Outgoing, Funny, Anxious…”
Fast forward to recently. I have had many labels… If you asked normal society folks, my labels might be “Wife, Catholic Freak, Pro-life Freak, Farmer Freak, Mother-of-too-many-children Freak…” OK, I think the world thinks I’m a Freak.
But what about those in my community, those that love me? A few years ago, I had some comfortable labels that I cherished. “Wife, Mother, Business Owner, Home Schooler, Traditional Catholic, Social, Happy, Passionate, Successful, Healthy…”
For quite a few years, I liked my labels. I liked saying “Yes, I am a homeschooling mom of a bazillion happy kids, I am a faithful traditional Catholic who ‘does all my prayer commitments’, I am financially successful for a GOOD reason of course (to be generous), and my marriage is just peachy.”
But, lo and behold, those comfortable labels were stripped away, and certainly not with my permission.
I realized we had problems at home with a son who has Aspergers Syndrome (mild autism), lots of littles so that I had trouble educating my older ones or even just spending time with them, chaos and sloppiness, depression, a marriage that was strained for an unnamed reason at the time, a faith crisis, financial difficulties that seem to poke at many of us relentlessly… friends who disappeared drastically and for no (logical) reason.
My labels changed, quickly: I was now a “Half home schooler half normal charter school mom, a Catholic/Christian who was no longer part of a traditional Latin community (for a still unnamed reason) but still Catholic, the wife of a corporate employee while we both have entrepreneurial visions, a dairy farmer who makes goat milk soap …” Nothing really squeaky clean or clear about any of that…
And all of a sudden, I felt lost and confused as to WHO I AM. It was a horrible, embarrassing feeling. I felt like I needed to make excuses, to prove myself, to explain everything… Because I felt like I just didn’t impress anyone anymore… Because I thought I was defined by my labels.
But I am not.
And neither are you.
“Who do people say that I am?”
My answer, for myself, is… “Who cares?”
I have been blessed lately with beautiful, and I mean BEAUTIFUL women that have emerged in my life who have taken on the role of sisters and mentors to me. And I keep hearing this message: You are loved because of WHO YOU ARE, AS A PERSON, without any so-called labels. This is truth.
This is not relativism. There is truth and there are lies. There is good and there is bad… but as people, we are loved. Even when we mess up. Even when we are confused or ill in mind or body. Even when people we respect don’t approve of us, or even worse, don’t love us back.
The fact is: God loves me, and you, no matter what. That can be a torturous thought, because we want to prove something somehow, that we are worthy. But as a beautiful friend pointed out to me yesterday, pretty much all we can work on is being less unworthy, because we are unworthy of His love anyway.
So your kids go to a school? That’s the best you can do? Good for you! Maybe you are like me and deeply desire to protect them from this hostile world where there isn’t that much good education in truth. But it’s the best you can do. And who knows, maybe God is ordaining this decision. Maybe He has a plan, even though it is not your ideal. (Or maybe it is your ideal ;))
Maybe you are like me and are letting your spouse lead, out of love. But he chooses something that isn’t your first preference. Good for you. You are showing your children what real marriage looks like, and real love. No, it’s not so peachy, but it’s love nonetheless.
Your kids can be out of hand sometimes? A little on the wild side? You don’t have enough money and are struggling because your spouse can’t find a job? You go to this church or that church? You wear a veil? You don’t? You eat organic? You don’t? Don’t worry about what ‘those other people’ are saying about you. Yeah, they have labels for you. They have them for me, too.
But last I checked, I have only one code, and it doesn’t make the laser beep at Walmart.
Because it’s in my heart. And God’s label is all that matters.
We were created in His image and likeness. And we are beautiful and loved.