Toss the Labels

“What’s her name?”

“Shelby Kate.” The exchange took maybe three seconds. In three seconds, a life had a name.

I was watching TV when I went in to labor with my third little arrow. She was one day early from her actual due date. I labored at home for several hours while scrubbing my house to lemony-fresh oblivion, all the while squeezing my coach man’s hand to hard it began to resemble a wrinkled raisin. I was happy to have the excitement of going into labor at home, painful as it was. I was ready for that adrenaline rush. After a few hours of that rush, I was ready to situate myself and my laboring body in a hospital bed, with an anesthesiologist close at hand. I labored in the hospital for a few hours, and out she came. Shelby Kate. There she was. Nine months of waiting, growing, praying, hoping, planning, and preparing for new life. In an instant, a mini-princess had arrived, and now she had a name.
Her birth certificate had been filled out, a Social Security card would soon arrive in the mail, and she would be entered into the world system. She had been proclaimed as Shelby Kate, a deeply Southern name with strong ties to a favorite movie of mine. Her technical etymology reads “sheltered, pure, and clear.” Anyone who knows or has heard my now seven-month-old knows that “sheltered” gives way to being the life of the party, and “clear” is an understatement. The woman has a clear voice and will make it known….loudly if need be. Beyond the technical meaning of her name, the Lord had long before proclaimed to me and to my coach man that her name, and in a greater sense her life, would proclaim the prophetic promises of God. Our prayer is that her life exceeds labels, roles and assignments. However, it all starts with a name. There is so much to a name. It is so personal. When the love of your life whispers your name, every sense in your body tingles. If your parents shout your first and middle name down the hallway, you better be coming up with some fast answers. Your name being announced over a PA system in a crucial minute of a playoff game can make superhero adrenaline race through your body.

There is power in a name.

As the steam engine of life rolls along, and our names start to get hidden within the brambles of the days we live, wife, mom, college student, mentor, sibling, caretaker, cook, or maid start to rise up and take a seat above our name. Some battle the labels of being terminal, gifted, divorced, addict, single, or burden. Some are labeled infertile, insecure, or damaged. Labels can stick like sticky notes to our foreheads. Shy, rejected, abused, victim, failure, unpolished, unsuccessful, bankrupt, broke. Those are only a fraction of labels or names we can knowingly or unknowingly place on ourselves or others. Labels can roll off the tongues of friends, family and associates like hot lava burning holes in every part of your heart. A label can define and dismiss you in an instant. Some labels can be given so much authority in life that whether they are true or not, we can start to live according to those labels and not to God’s Truth.

I’ve had a hard time wearing my name tag to church. Our church recently had formal, real-deal, magnet-backed name tags made for every member. It was done in an effort to increase comfort as our church family grows, and we need to know more names. It’s just nice not to have to say, “Hey…..you,” so much. I haven’t worn mine but once. Name tags make me feel funny. I’m so proud of my given name. No problem with Cari Lyn Trotter….nothing at all wrong with that name. The problem is that the life behind it seems to mess it up on the regular. I have all sorts of labels and roles posted on my forehead. If you could see me from the inside out, I might look more like a sticky note mummy rather than a 5’3” blond with blue eyes. I’m afraid of the name tag, because the lies of the Enemy tell me others will read more than my name; they will read every sharp thorn I have ever grown, even those I have trimmed back and cleared up after moving forward healed and whole. I nervously anticipate they will rise above who I am becoming. As I put my name tag on, there is always this looming fear that a new introduction will read a label, make a fast judgment, define and dismiss me, read my label, and not my name.

The press of negative labels can threaten to belittle the power of your name and your position as a daughter of God. Life labels can threaten to “kill, steal and destroy” {John 10:10} the beauty of Christ. Fixating so much on what I can’t be, what I’m not, or what my life is not instead of believing and agreeing with all that God says I am in Him is dangerous terrain. If I give those labels too many inches, they will take more than a mile of heart territory. In an effort to become all glorious within, we have to first pronounce our name and give it the proper authority and place in our lives. We are daughters of God. Everything should flow from that place, from that name, from that position.

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