November 22, 1988, was mostly like any other day. Got ready for school. Check. Caught the school bus. Check. Did my classwork. Check. Ate lunch in the cafeteria – probably rectangle pizza. Check. Played on the playground. Check. Caught the school bus. Check.
When I arrived home, my mother’s car was gone but my dad’s truck was there. “Hey, Dad, I’m home!” I hollered when I walked into our 1970’s rancher. Silence. “Hey, Dad, where are you?” I called out as I went from room to room. I went to my parents’ room last. It was empty. I peered out of their back window that overlooked the backyard. Something deep in my gut told me not to look down.
I walked back into the den, and there on the coffee table was a little folded note. When I saw it, without reading a single word, I knew he was gone. I opened it anyway, hoping maybe he just ran away, even though his old pickup truck was sitting in the driveway. It said things like “I’ll always love you” and “Take care of each other.” Not long afterward, but what felt like eternity, my mother came home, juggling brown paper bags full of groceries. When she walked in the door, I broke down and handed her the note. She ran, looking for him. Then beneath their bedroom window, she found him with a scream.
After my dad’s body was carried away and the cops were gone, my mother and I were alone. She wept. In between her sobs, she said we should have loved him better, because maybe then he wouldn’t have done what he did. And in that moment, I agreed with her. I believed that my weak love pulled the trigger.
I labeled myself a murderer and carried the weight of my father’s death. For nearly a decade, I was imprisoned and crushed by a false label. I didn’t want anyone to know my secret, so I tried to bury it deep. But its enormity couldn’t be contained. It gave birth to bad decisions, new labels, new pain, and a twisted identity. Thank you for freeing me, Jesus.
Satan is in the business of messing with our identity. He whispers false accusations in our ears about who we are (Revelation 12:10), and often we believe them. He will use circumstances, culture, and people’s words to alter our self-perception and rename us. He’s been doing it since the beginning. Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s questioning led her to believe a false label – that she was not like God. But she was a child of God made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, 3:1-4). When Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were enslaved, the Babylonians tried to change their identities by renaming them and attempted to change their Jewish lifestyle to a pagan one (Daniel 1:1-21). Naomi’s husband and sons died, and in her despair, she chose to change her name from Naomi, meaning pleasantness, to Mara, meaning bitter (Ruth 1:1-21).
Has there been a time you labeled yourself or allowed others to label you? How did you live out those labels?
Be encouraged, because there’s wonderful news. God is in the business of restoring our true identity. Let’s allow Him to rename us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Roman 8:1
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b-14
It’s a great day to start thinking of yourself in the right way. How will you allow Jesus to free you from labels and restore your identity in Him?
Because you are what God says that you are! You are enough!
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Vicky Cullison is a full-time wife, a full-time mother, a full-time creative project manager and most importantly a full-time lover and follower of Jesus. She’s also a full-time food lover, a full-time animal petter and a full-time encourager. When not doing these things, she attempts to write stuff. Click here to read her Breath on Paper Bio.