My parents brought me home to a farm out Burlington Turnpike, up the hill from Monroeton. Our collie babysat me, read that kept me on the blanket in the side yard while my mother hung clothes or pulled weeds in the kitchen garden. I think that legitimately grants me the labels Country Kid or Farm Kid, at least for the first few months of my life.
A neighbor set the barns on fire, that’s another story, and my father’s dream of a working farm went up in smoke, as did my label of Farm Kid. The label that did stick was country kid because I spent the majority of my life living up a dirt road where we couldn’t see the lights of our next door neighbor.
Then I got the label bus kid and one label related to my academic placement in high school. I never got anything labeling me an athlete. I warmed the bench and organized the food for tournaments instead. Nor did I get labeled a vocalist or musician. I was better in a choir.
Later I wore labels calling me a wife, a mom, a missionary, a teacher, a grandma, and over the years worked my way out from under the label of a college drop out to the one that read graduate of grad school.
The point I want to make is that we all wear different labels and we label the people around us. Then we treat them according to that label whether there is anything more to them or not.
This last week that last statement kind of hit me between the eyes, especially after sitting through one of my husband’s messages. This one made several points but one of them that struck me was that call to love God, love the people of God, and have compassion on those outside of the family of God.
To my shame, I hadn’t always used those labels. I had other labels stuck in my head, labels that gave me an excuse or reason to avoid people who were different from me, people who had different values than I did. What a mess!!
Here’s true confession time: I recently saw someone to whom I had unconsciously given a common label (a judgmental one), and felt even a little fear about how I was going to communicate with this person. Then my husband’s words resonated. I had defaulted to a hurtful label, unfortunately too easily. I looked at this person again as someone who should be loved and cared for, period!
I could almost see the first label turning into smoke disappearing into the sky and being replaced with affection. It didn’t matter what the person looked like or what the person did. I needed to love this person, to feel compassion for them, to be Christ to them. And you know what, it felt good to get rid of that label. We had a great conversation.
Now I am not sure they did see Christ in me, but I am equally certain that they never could have with my label hanging in the air between us.
Thoughts from the desk of Carol Brennan King
Collie photo from http://www.dogbehaviors.net/collie-dog-behaviors/
Bus photo from http://busparts.com/chevrolet.html