Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Losing the Labels, While Embracing Our Identity


"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." - Romans 15:7 (NIV)

I looked over to the right of where I was sitting on the equestrian center's metal bleachers, as we waited for our trail ride to begin. My daughter's Bible study leader was talking to several other women, but I couldn't hear them. Instead, they were communicating with their hands. 

I felt a little left out and jealous that I couldn't be a part of the conversation, because I didn't know sign language, but at the same time I admired them. The very fact they were here at the women's retreat told me that their deafness wasn't going to hold them back from experiencing all that God had for them, and it wasn't going to stop them from having relationships with hearing people, either. 

I asked them, through the interpreter, if I could have a picture with them. I said I wanted to send it to my daughter, whose favorite show is Switched at Birth, a television series about a deaf community. They smiled and obliged, but it got me thinking.

These women had come to the conference with an interpreter, like anyone who spoke another language would, and yet we kept referring to them as members of our church's deaf community. Don't get me wrong, the references were good and kind and filled with gratitude for having these special ladies at the retreat. But I wondered for a moment, "What if they don't like being labeled as the deaf community?"

Those of us with "invisible diseases" like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other autoimmune disorders are often quick to complain that people often don't understand our pain because they can't see it. Therefore, we will sometimes be tempted to announce our disability, just so people get it. We don't want to appear lazy or rude when we can't participate in certain activities due to pain or fatigue, and so we will explain our dilemma with a statement like "Well, I would except for my RA..." or "I'm sorry, but my RA is really flared up right now." We unintentionally label ourselves as "a person with RA."

While it's fine if we want to label ourselves, we don't usually like it when others label us. I have a visible illness, psoriasis, and while my case is mild and so far only affects my legs and hands periodically, it still can generate questions, especially if I am going in for a mani-pedi. "Don't worry, it's not contagious," I have to explain. People with severe psoriasis have a much more difficult time, and I am quite sure they wish their disease weren't so obvious. For them, the idea of someone referring to them as "the guy/girl with that skin problem" has to be painful.

My daughter, who had developmental apraxia, a speech disorder that predicated her dyslexia, was bullied for awhile for not being able to speak properly and for having trouble reading. Reading out loud in class, which highlighted both of her differences, was emotionally painful. She is super smart, and yet in that setting she was labeled as "stupid." Because she was adopted, she is Hispanic and yet being raised in a Caucasian family, and so the labels others have assigned her include "Mexican" and "basic white girl," depending on who they were coming from. Talk about confusing!

Knowing someone's disability can help us understand where they are coming from, but it can also be distracting. At the women's retreat, I wanted to connect with these amazing deaf women, and yet, I didn't know how. I let our language differences get in the way, and even let the "cool" factor distract me from getting to know them. Thankfully, I didn't let the "deaf" label keep me from noticing their big, warm smiles and friendly demeanor, which made me even more intent on getting to know them in the future. I even noticed one lady's pretty blue dress and the other one's cute sandals. Unfortunately, the language barrier kept me from being able to give them those compliments. 

How many times do labels diminish us as people? Drama queen, control freak, workaholic, slug, or "just" a stay-home mom are a few ways I have heard people describe themselves and others. Often times, these labels reflect our flaws and our fears. They can't come close to describing the entirety of who we are.

Fortunately, there is One who never tries to label us with any other word than "loved." To God, our Heavenly Father, that is the only label that matters. John 3:16 begins with "For God so loved the world..." 

Ephesians 1:5 says He "predestined us for adoption to sonship..." and I can tell you as an adoptive mother, there is no child more cherished and loved than the one who is chosen. I John 3:1 reiterates that, saying "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

Through Jesus Christ, we are children of God, cherished and chosen, holy and blameless, saved and sanctified, set apart as saints and witnesses for Him. And yet, above it all, even when we fall flat on our faces, and are labeled by the world as losers or failures, we are loved. YOU ARE LOVED.

So the next time you see someone next to you who is blind or deaf, walking tall or in a wheelchair, standing proud in their position or kneeling humbly in their poverty, think not of them by the labels the world might give them. Notice them for who they are - not just on the outside, but on the inside. They are loved. And when you look in the mirror, remember that you are too.

Peace, joy and love to you today.

Linda

Losing the Labels, While Embracing Our Identity originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on Facebook. 

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' Thoughtful Thursday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. I also link up often with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.

14 comments:

  1. Such beautiful and encouraging words! I can be too quick myself to label someone unjustly because I don't take the time to get to know who they really are. I am blessed to be your neighbor today at Holley Gerth's.

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    1. Thank you, Mary! I think it's natural to judge a book by its cover, but when we are willing to open up the pages, we are often in for a pleasant surprise! Even the most difficult people usually have a sweet side, even if we don't see it at first. :-)

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  2. I am so glad God doesn't label us, but loves us unconditionally. Great post!
    Blessings to you! I'm your neighbor at #MomentsofHope

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gayl! I too am so very grateful for God's unconditional love! It is a wonderful gift, isn't it?

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  3. Love this post Linda. Such an important message & one that needs to be constantly highlighted. Thank you xx

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    1. Thank you, Sam. I agree. How easy it is to forget that first and foremost, we are loved....every day, all the time.

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  4. Wonderful reflection Linda.

    PS:-- I like the badge.

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  5. Beautiful words to reflect upon. Thank you for sharing these words of inspiration today!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by today, Robin! Have a blessed day in the knowledge that you are loved!

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  6. Thank You for sharing your story. Blessed to be your neighbor at the Ra Ra linkup this week!

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    1. I am blessed to be your neighbor as well! May God keep your heart in perfect peace today.

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  7. Thanks for reminding me of my wonderful label from God❤️ Really enjoyed your post!

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    1. I am so glad it reminded you of how much more you are than any label the world could give you, and how very much you are loved. Have a blessed day, Gretchen!

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