The labels we wear

labels Labels.  We all wear them.  The things people have spoken about us or to us have stuck to us and changed the way we live.  For some it is trying to outlive the labels, and others try to live up to them.  Everyone of us has experienced the labels our world puts on people.

As humans we love to categorize people, and have them fit neatly into a slot that makes sense in our minds.  The standard we use for people is usually ourselves.  When people behave the way we want they are great people, and when they don’t we usually get upset.  If people behave differently enough from us we categorize them as different and set them aside.   We have labels for just about everyone we meet, and we relate to people based on the labels they have.

Growing up there were jocks and geeks, preps and Goths, punks, metal heads and grunge.  But there are more than the social labels we wear.  There are a lot of things spoken to us over the years that have labeled us as well.  Useless, bum, jerk, loser, worthless, good for nothing, dumbass, and many others.  The struggle to be yourself is especially hard for young people still discovering who they really are as they grow into adulthood.  And the labels can be extremely hard to live with as evidenced by our teen suicide rates.more than a label

We are more than a label.  And we don’t have to be the labels that others have placed on us.  Even our parents placed labels on us as we grew up and were told to be something.  Part of the journey of self discovery is learning to discern yourself from the labels.  Under all the labels our world has placed on us is the real you and I.  An extremely valuable person to find.  One that Jesus thought was worth leaving heaven and dying for.

All of those labels have created ways of relating and interacting with our world, and many of them are learned behaviors and are not the real us.  The journey is to help us decide which ones are not us and which ones are.  As we discover ourselves under the labels we can then begin to express ourselves for who we really are.  It isn’t going to be an easy path to take because some of the labels we wear have a depth of pain attached to them that will take some working through.  But the rewards for doing so are incredible.  Don’t let the worry of what you may discover keep you from searching.  There is a great wealth inside each one of us if we are willing to look for and discover who we really are.

Seeing the sights

one thingInside each and every one of us is a wonderful person the world is desperately wanting to know.  Every day all around us are people that have incredible talents and gifts that often go completely unseen and unknown, and the world is worse off for it.  So much potential that goes unused and unnoticed.

The world doesn’t need more carbon copies of others.  It doesn’t matter if they were the greatest person around.  What the world needs is people who are willing to be authentic, and allow their potential to be lived fully.  This comes by knowing yourself, your limitations, your talents and giftings and being secure enough in who you are that there is no need to “fit another mold”.  We were created unique and special.  Every person born is important and has a wonderful potential.   There has been and never will be another you, and if your life goes unlived because you were trying your best to fit in or measure up the world will have lost a great treasure.

Coming to know yourself is a journey.  It isn’t something that happens overnight.  In fact because we are developing and growing it is a journey that is continually ongoing.  Everyone of us needs to be going on that journey.  This is done with a lot of soul-searching, and thought spent deciding why we do things, what we love to do, what we are passionate about.  It involves analyzing motives to understand the reasons for behaviors we have.  Many of our behaviors are a result of our childhood, and often they are self-protection mechanisms that have completely outlived their usefulness and are now just keeping us from become ourselves.

This journey isn’t easy at times.  In fact it can be painful as we come to understand things about ourselves that we won’t necessarily like.  But the rewards for going on the journey exponentially exceed any discomfort we may go through.  The world around us needs people who know who they are.  There are a lot of people compensating, calculating and even being like a chameleon and changing themselves to fit the expectations of those they relate to.  Very few people are truly self-aware and confident in who they are and what they are gifted to do.

So it is an important journey for all of us.  The big thing is that we need to enjoy the journey.  Every journey we take in life has its ups and downs.  The car breaks down, tires go flat, engines overheat, flights are delayed or cancelled, traffic jams cause us to be late.  Everywhere we turn there will always be joyous highs and heart breaking lows.  Unfortunately it is a facIMAG0157t of life.

But even with the lows and high the journey can be worth while and very memorable.  I recently traveled to Turkey and Armenia, and there were difficulties and frustrations.  There were highs and lows, but the memories will stay with me for a life time.  It is the same when we journey to knowing ourselves.  The journey was meant to be enjoyed.  It will be hard at times, definitely life changing, and an incredible release of burdens we hang on to, and passions we have bottled up.  We are all worth knowing.  That is the way God created us.  But to be known we have to know.  I need to know myself so I can share myself with the world I live in.  If you haven’t started your journey, it is never ever to late.  Every journey begins with a single step.  Just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you. journey enjoy

Are you following?

follow meWhat does it mean to follow someone?  In our world it doesn’t mean much.  It usually means that we go in the same direction as the one we are following.  But in Jesus’ day follow me actually had a depth of meaning.  When Jesus spoke to His disciples and said “Follow Me…” they knew it was more than traveling together.

A modern image of following someone would be an apprenticeship.  When you apprentice for a trade, you are a student or follower, and you allow the teacher or master to guide you and train you to become like him.  If your studying to be an electrician you will follow a journeyman or master and learn to be an electrician by doing what you see done.

Following in Jesus’ day meant more than just learning a trade.  It also meant learning a life.  When you followed someone you became like the one you followed.  You learned to think and act like them.  You didn’t trade in your personal identity at all, but you submitted your life to the one you followed, and you learned to live life the same way they did.  It went deeper than apprenticeship.  You learned a lifestyle, a world view, a way of relating to the world around you, and you took on the mission of the one you followed.  Your character changed, your life mission changed.  Peter and the other disciples left their respective trades and jobs to become like Jesus.

Paul, who encountered Jesus and became a follower stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. NIV  Paul understood what it meant to follow.  In essence you become like the one you choose to follow after.  You take on their traits, some of their habits.  You allow them to speak into your life and character and to build you up.  And you take on their mission.  You become an electrician if your following one.

If you look at your life who would you say you follow.  As Christians we are called to follow Jesus.  But we don’t see much of the life of Christ when we look at our lives.  Wolfgang Samson wrote “In the West, the lifestyles of many Christians are still centered on careers, TV, hobbies, privacy, and pets. We sugarcoat our faith with a thin layer of Christian behavior: attending church services, praying before meals, and listening to Christian music. This is not much different from the lifestyle of the average person living in the West where almost everything is geared toward the pursuit of personal security, success, fun, and even individual spiritual growth.”   We call ourselves Christians, or followers of Christ but are we following?  A follower always becomes like the one they follow.

One quick way to check if you are following Jesus is to see if you are passionate about His mission.  Jesus stated His mission was For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10 NLT  And He stated that following Him would have us taking on His mission.  Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” Matthew 4:19 NLV.  If we are not becoming sharing the hope that we have with those we come in contact with and seeking to connect them with Jesus, can we say we are following?  Someone once wrote “If your not fishing, your not following.”  Who are you following?  Does it need to change?  Only you can decide who you want to follow.  Everyone follows someone.  We need to decide if they are worth following and if we really want to become like them.