Labels are such an ugly business. We label people we come in contact with so quickly. We label people we have relationships with so quickly. We label ourselves.
How many times do we see someone at a store who doesn’t dress like us, act like us, even smell like us, and we label. We write them off as their clothes, their behavior, their smell. We don’t allow them to be other than what they seem to us.
How often do we look in the mirror and only see the labels that have been placed on us? How many have had a loved one say something hurtful and find ourselves living up, or down, to that comment? How many have looked in the mirror and only been able to see their past, their failure, their shame, their fear.
A broken home. A job termination. A lost friend.
A drug habit. Closet alcoholism. A gambling problem. A porn addiction. Serial one-night-stands.
A self-righteousness that wonders why you have no friends.
Angry, ugly words hurled at a loved one and designed to wound, to destroy, and hurled over and over because you can’t seem to stop yourself.
A fear that keeps you from truly experiencing life and love.
We look in the mirror and can only see our flaws. How we’ve hurt others. How we’ve let others down. Over and over again. We look in the mirror and only see our past. And we try and we try and we try again to rise above it but we can’t. It’s sticky and it never seems to fully come off.
We are broken.
I think about how broken I have been. How much ugliness I have seen, participated in, or approved of. How much debauchery I have wallowed in. The friends I’ve walked away from when my choices began to veer away from God. How many people I made uncomfortable with my life choices. How many times I’ve led others into sin, all the while telling them it was okay.
I’ve botched the raising of my daughter by exposing her to things that are contrary to the word of God and even to general societal norms, and put her in a position of having to own that her family of origin is extremely dysfunctional.
I can’t tell you how much I regret that. I’ve made apologies to her, and her gracious response was that she “turned out alright.” She did, but it is by the grace of God and her own God-given determination.
She, along with many other things, was a casualty of the sinful life I lived.
Those casualties are littered along the landscape of my life. A failed marriage, monstrous regret, a damaged reputation…the sin in my life rippled out and affected me and so many others in so many ways.
I damaged the trust of my ex-husband when I cheated on him years ago. It took 4 long hellish years to get back on even ground again. There were lasting effects of that one decision that touched every area of my life. Even now, almost 16 years later, I can still point to certain mindsets that originated with that one decision.
I can tell you that I held on to the label of “cheater” for many years. Long after my ex-husband had forgiven me, I still reminded myself of my disgrace. I still made choices and decisions out of that label. To be quite honest with you, I didn’t realize that I still had some of the shame associated with that until I typed the previous paragraph. I don’t like revealing that truth about myself. And yet, it’s not the worst truth about me.
I got a second chance with my ex-husband and for a few years we conducted our marriage in a way that mostly honored God. Sin crept back in, mine and his, and we began a long road away from God. I laid claim to many more labels during that journey. The end of that road for me was the disintegration of a 23-1/2 year marriage, an alcohol addiction, mental instability, suicidal thoughts, rock bottom…and my appointment with the Almighty God.
I was still broken. I could still see those labels on me. I think I saw them more when I became aware of the depths to which I had sunk, the true reaches of the depravity I had allowed into my life. I have moments of sharp, stinging regret when I think now about my actions during that time of my life.
As I was writing the paragraphs about me cheating, there was a phrase from a verse that the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart. First Corinthians 6:11 says “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Such were some of you. Such was I. But…I was washed, I was sanctified, I was justified in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.
God restores. God redeems. God reclaims His own, and His word tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.
He gave me another chance. He took what I had broken and put it back together. He restored.
He doesn’t see me as a failure. He doesn’t see me as shameful, a disgrace, a cheater, or any of the other things I could truthfully label myself. He has put His own label on me. I am a child of the King.
There’s a song that was playing on my music station while I was called away from the keyboard. I know it is not a coincidence that I had begun writing this post and this song that I had never heard before began playing. It is “Beautifully Broken” by Pump (link to the YouTube video here)
I am broken. I am scarred. I have regrets. I carry the shame of my sins. But I am not my sins. I am not my shame. I am not my failures or my fears. Neither are you. You are not what you have been labeled. Lift your head, sister. The One who made you sees you for who you truly are. You may be broken, but you are a child of the King, and you are beautiful.