If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Escaping the Tyranny of Labels

There is something you probably don't know about my husband.  The man has some serious preferences with his automobiles.  He wants all of the family cars to be white, with light interior, and sticker free.  So you can imagine my shock when I walked outside one day, several years ago, and saw a translucent apple stuck to his back windshield.  I returned to the kitchen and said something overly dramatic and sarcastic like, "We don't put crosses or backwards swimming fish on our cars, no cute little decals that represent our family, and no pine cones for the ministry that has shaped us, but we are okay with apples?"

His response was simple, "It came with my new computer and I like my Macintosh."

I laughed and pointed out that if you are going to send one message to the world with your car, why not let it be your preference in computers.  We moved on, removed the apple, and have since returned to vehicle simplicity and anonymity.

The lesson I am desperately trying to illustrate here, my friends, is that:


I have been doing some thinking about labels lately and our tendency to let them define us.  When I talk about labels, I am not talking about the foundational ones that we cannot escape from like mom, sister, and daughter.  Think of those like the Honda decal on my car.  They come with the vehicle.   I am talking about the additional labels that we choose to take on or let others place on us like stay-at-home mom, pastor's wife, disabled, overweight, working mom, missionary, empty nester, Republican, divorced, widow, crazy, damaged, new mom, home school mom, and I could go on and on.  You get the idea.

Take a minute and think about the labels you have taken on and then let's 'talk' about them.

I Believe 6 Things Are True of Labels:

1. Labels place performance burdens and expectations on us that God may not have intended for us to bear.

The problem here is that we then feel the need to live up to those expectations in order to be faithful to our label. 

For example, 

"You are a stay at home mom so you should be the room mom and President of the PTA. "
"You are the pastor's wife (or kid) so you should behave perfectly and be at the church for every event."
"You have a degree in XYZ so you should be using that to support your family financially."

2. Labels are used to try and define our state of mind or emotional response (and they are usually wrong).

The problem here is that we either take on a negative emotion that we would not have felt had it not been suggested to us OR we feel guilty for not feeling the positive emotion.  

I was a blockhead a few months back and kept asking my friend, who had just returned from the mission field, if she was excited to be settling into her new home.   Of course, she was just trying to adjust and catch her breath.  Thankfully she was gracious enough not to tell me where to stick my assumptions of excitement. 

Other examples, 

"You are an empty nester now, aren't you so lost?"
"You are a new mom, you must be happy all the time to have that new baby."
"Your husband is a disabled vet, wow you must feel so burdened."
"You are single so you must be lonely."

3. Labels make unfair assumptions of our attributes.

Individuals then relate to you based on those assumed attributes and that never ends well. You know what they say about people who assume things. :)

For example, 

"You are a missionary so you must be super-spiritual."
"You are tattooed so you must be rebellious."
"You work outside of the home so you must not enjoy your kids like stay-at-home moms."
"You are overweight so you must be lazy."
"You trusted that man so you must be naive, stupid, or gullible."

4. Labels try and define our perspective.

In this situation we are grouped with others who carry the same label but possibly not the same values.  I believe this is where ministry is most hindered. 

For example, 

"You are a Republican so you must hate people on welfare."
"You work out and eat healthy so you are probably judging me for not doing so."
"You are a home school mom so you don't approve of my kids who go to public school."
"You are a Christian so you must hate homosexuals."
"You are a police officer so you must hate black people."

5. Labels ascribe value.

Two jacked-up extremes come to mind with this one - professional athletes and orphans.  We ascribe great value to one because they can run fast or throw a ball and zero value to the other whom God refers to caring for as "pure and undefiled religion."

Other examples,

"You come from money so you are special"
"You are divorced so you are not valuable"

6. Labels try and define your future.

I work every day to fight this lie.  Whether it is in my clinic or my home, I battle the notion that being disabled defines what you are capable of. 

Other examples, 

"You are being raised in the projects so you are destined to do drugs or end up in prison."
"You are a pregnant teenager.  Your life is over."
"You are childless so your future won't be fulfilling."

Do you see any of these 6 attributes in your labels?  

Some friends of mine made 2 other great observations that I want to share with you about labels:

  • "If this is in any way like the bins that are labeled at my house....the labels aren't always what is truly inside or are not the only thing inside "
  • "To add to the conversation about labels placed upon us, I'll give an example from my childhood. People inside and outside of our family often complimented my older sister's looks and my book smarts. We were constantly labeled as "the pretty one" and "the smart one." While we always had (and have) a very close relationship, those labels did breed insecurities in us both. As adults we've talked to each other about how she never felt smart and I never felt pretty. An example of how labels can often make people feel limited or less worthy, even when meant as compliments."
So here is where it gets really good.  

There is only one label we are supposed to wear and it too carries these attributes. But with this label, the attributes are a lot more encouraging. 

The label is "IN CHRIST."  Here is what the Bible has to say about our position in Christ. 

2 Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

1. Performance or expectations on us when in Christ    
1 Thes 2.4  We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, which leads to our desire to please Him and not perform for others.
Eph 5.1  We are imitators of God BECAUSE we are His beloved children.
Eph 2.10  We are His workmanship created for good works that we should walk in them.

When we are powerless to do a thing, it is a great joy we can come and step inside the ability of Jesus-  Corrie Ten Boom

2. Our state of mind or emotions in Christ    
Rom 12.2  We are to be renewed in our minds which leads to transformation
Eph 4.22-24   Putting on the new self instead of wearing around the old by being renewed in our minds
Col 3.1-4  Set our minds on things above not on things of earth
2 Tim 2.22  Flee youthful desires / lusts / compulsions and pursue the right things with the right kind of people

3. Our attributes in Christ   
1 Tim 1.13-16  God uses the imperfect and rebellious so that He can magnify His mercy (what you think might disqualify you may actually be God magnifying His mercy)
1 Peter 4.10  Be good stewards of the grace-gifts God has given us

4. Our perspective in Christ  
1 Cor 4.2-3  It matters that we be found faithful, BUT people aren’t our judges.  We ourselves don't get to be our own judges.

5.Our value in Christ    
Ps 139  We are knit together by Him.
Eph 2.10  We are His workmanship / masterpiece.
Luke 12.7 / Matthew 10.31  We are valued by Him and He takes care of us.

“It does not matter where we come from or what we look like. If we recognize our abilities, are willing to learn and to use what we know in helping others, we will always have a place in the world.”    -Ben Carson

6.  Our future in Christ
Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Eph 2.7   God will forever display His kindness toward us in Christ – heaven will be an ongoing fireworks show of His mercy and grace to us.
Phil 1:6  Being confident of this that He who began a good work in your will be faithful to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

So here is what I think we are supposed to do with this.
  • Identify the labels you have take on. 
  • Identify how you have let them define your performance, emotions, attributes, perspective, value, and future.  
  • If you are like me, you need to make a list to make it real. 
  • Replace those labels with "in Christ" and replace those attributes with your position "in Christ".
I think it is time for us to find an "in Christ" bumper sticker.  What do you think? :)

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