Have you ever tried peeling a label off of a new glass? Really, any new item with a label affixed to it. It’s not an easy task. I recently purchased new glasses for my dining room and it was quite an ordeal trying to get the labels off of those glasses. I had to soak them, then scrub, then pick at the adhesive. I went to dry them and could still feel the tackiness and had to start over. Three times I went through the process before the label was removed.
Have you ever thought of the labels that might be attached to you? Everyone has them. Labels are used to describe ourselves and solidify who we are. Labels make up identity and can affect the way we interact with others and the world, but they also affect how the world interacts with us.
On my recent trip to Greece, I met a young mom who was living in Athens because she had recently become a Ukrainian refugee. She shared her story with me and it was heartbreaking. Through her tears and broken English, she told me she would have never imagined using the word refugee to describe herself. She wanted me to know that she was educated, that she loved her family, that she was actually a Russian woman married to a Ukrainian man and how at one point that was celebrated but now this identity had complicated things in her life so much. She wanted me to know that she was not looking for a hand out but at the moment, she needed it more than ever. She went back and forth sharing with me the labels she was proud of and the labels she wanted to get rid of.
Oftentimes, labels are something that we pride ourselves on. The positive ways in which we relate to others who have similar interests, accomplishments or upbringings. Many times we have been labeled by others or even harder, ourselves, and it is a label like the one stuck to the glass that we are trying hard to get rid of. We feel the stickiness of the situation or habits that led us to that uncomfortable label even if the label isn’t apparent to the eye.
Despite the fact that we all have various labels, one label that is true for all of us is “child of God”. We were made in His image and scripture tells us we were perfectly and wonderfully made. Yes, we all have made mistakes and added unwanted labels to the mix or perhaps are too proud of the labels we find pleasing and think others will approve of. When I keep it simple and remove the labels both good and bad, I find other people. People just trying to live their best lives. When I remove the labels, I can relate on the most basic level that we all desire to be seen and be loved.