Have you ever gone to a store and purchased hard, plastic containers that are used for food storage? Once you get them home, you try to remove the labels so that they can be washed before you use them, right? Or at least I do. When you begin to remove the labels from the outside you may notice that some of the labels peel right off. Others, not so much. Some may stick to the plastic so tightly that the paper rips and refuses to come off. Once you see that it’s not going to be easily removed what do you do? You may soak them, scrub them, or even try to rub them off using dish soap. Either way it takes a lot of effort to remove the label.
As I was thinking about those labels, I realized that the process we sometimes use to remove the labels off of food containers is like the process and effort we expend as we try to fix or change ourselves. From the time we are born, every single person that passes through our life has the ability to influence or shape the way we see ourselves as children and later as adults.
As children, if we are nurtured, accepted and taught to love ourselves, we are more likely to throw off the negative labels. However, when our lives have trauma, it is more likely that those negative comments will go directly to the heart of a child and carry on to adulthood. Over a lifetime we are inundated with other people’s opinions of who we are, who we should be, and what our value is. Children tend to accept what people that surround them speak about them. The things that are spoken about them or to them, becomes a running tape that can either hinder their development or prepare them for a successful future. As we get older and our personalities develop a little more, some of us can throw off those opinions that we don’t believe fit us. This is how it should work if we are healthy.
When the negative, critical, or shaming labels begin to take hold in the heart of a child, it isn’t as easy to let go of the images that those words create. We start to believe the labels that some easily assign (lazy, stupid, fat, worthless, or ignorant) and take them on as if they are our own thoughts or opinions. We believe it, we start to live it, and then we live with the consequences of believing the worst.
That life is steeped in depression, insecurity, shame and feelings of never being good enough. In my own experience things got to a point where I eventually needed to seek counseling. If I wanted to see change, I needed to learn how to deal with life in a different way and it did help. It presented me with different tools to cope with the abuse and the consequences of it in my life. However, it had no ability to heal the wounds of the past.
It wasn’t until I found Christ that I finally understood there was a way for my past to be healed. Not only could it be healed, but as I allowed God to walk me through letting go of the past and forgiving those who had caused the harm, I could learn to walk in freedom. Don’t get me wrong, the process hasn’t been easy for me because I had so much to unlearn. The methods I used to cope with life allowed me to walk as a survivor but in Christ we aren’t meant to just survive, we are meant to thrive in the life God intended for us.
The scripture in the Message Bible, Ephesians 4:20- 24 reads, ‘But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and the working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.’ In another version it tells us to “put off the old man.”
This phrase “a life renewed from the inside and the working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you,” is the key to change and transformation. This is HUGE! Remember in the first of this story how I discussed that there is a lot of effort expended as we try to remove all the labels? That is the problem, we are still trying to remove the labels ourselves that have been assigned to us by others. What God brings to the table through Christ is REST, the working of His SPIRIT and the transformation as we surrender to Him and continue to renew our minds with His WORD.
There is another scripture in Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV), which reads ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’
As we come to Christ, we are so used to fighting the battle alone that when we find God who only wants to love, to lead, and to prepare us for life, He seems too good to be true. When God says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest,’ it doesn’t make sense if you don’t yet understand God’s character. I was still seeing God through my old filter, not through the new eyes of His Spirit.
The biggest obstacle to removing the labels of our past is trying to trust God when our minds are unrenewed to His truth. A key to walking in freedom is simply believing that He is working in us to deal with our life issues. When we continue to focus on what we are trying to remove, we get deeply embedded in the problem and fail to see that the solution to all those labels are in God’s word and in the work and power of His Spirit.
What labels are you trying to remove in your own strength? Remember, the rest of God is available to you. Lean on Him and rely on His ability to bring about the transformation of your life. One of the key things I learned in prayer was when I would run up against something I couldn’t figure out, I would simply ask God to give me a new thought, a new way of thinking about the situation and then show me scripture to meditate on.
This week we talked about putting off the old man, the next blog post will be on ‘putting on the new.’
Father I pray for those reading this post that have been buried in the labels of their past. I pray Father that they would first and foremost, be drawn into a deeper relationship with you. Then Lord, give them a hunger for your word. As your word becomes real to them Lord, give them the understanding of what freedom looks like that is only found in You.
@Linda Wilson or lindawilsonwriting.com, March 10, 2019