|When I was a child and someone asked me what my name was I would say, “Sheila Davina Walsh.” My mum would tell me time after time that all I really needed to say was “my name is Sheila” but that made no sense to my five-year old brain. There are lots of Sheila’s living in the west coast of Scotland I figured and I’m the Sheila Davina Walsh one.
It’s not a unique line of reasoning. Even Jesus’ friend’s, Mary and Martha attached an add-on to their brother Lazarus’s name. Lazarus was deathly ill and so the sisters sent word to Jesus
Lord, the one You love is sick. — John 11:3 (NIV)
They didn’t just say, “Lazarus is sick,” because that could have been Lazarus who runs the village store or Lazarus, the shepherd. No, they wanted Jesus to understand this is our Lazarus… the one You love.
As I got older I discovered that not all the ways we identify ourselves are positive. Sometimes labels are attached to us and when we look in the mirror, those are all we see.
I remember a moment like that when I was just ten years old. I was at summer camp and loving every moment of it until one comment from a girl changed everything. It was Friday morning and on Sunday the dads were driving up to go canoeing with their daughters. Over breakfast that day, a girl I’d met for the first time at camp asked me a simple question,
“Is your dad coming on Sunday, Sheila?”
Before I had a chance to answer, another girl at the table from my home church said,
“Her dad’s not coming. He was mental. He killed himself.”
Silence. No one spoke for a few moments then the bell rang for our morning activities. Everyone left but I couldn’t move. I just sat there frozen in my chair. What she said was cruel but true and no one looked at me the same way after that. On Sunday, everyone headed off to the lake with their dads and I sat on my bunk covered in shame, labelled.
I wonder what labels you wear?
Single dad, single mom?
Out of a job?
The list is endless. I remember talking to a very successful business man after an event I spoke at in Los Angeles. He told me that although he was a multi-millionaire, respected in his sphere, the voice he heard loudest in his head when he put his head on the pillow at the end of the day was his mother’s.
“I should never have had you. Having you ruined my health.”
Labels are like boxes. They keep us contained. They tell us what’s possible and what is not.
For years I have worn the label of mental illness. I was hospitalized and diagnosed with clinical depression in 1992. I used to wear that label with shame but an encounter with a broken-hearted, shame-filled pastor’s wife changed that forever. This pastor knew that I was speaking in his town as many of the women from his congregation were attending. His wife was not.
“She suffers with depression,” he wrote. “No one in our church knows because she thinks it will impact my ministry. Would you be willing to meet with her?”
I told him I would be glad to. We met in a private room in my hotel. At first, she wouldn’t even look at me. I told her that she didn’t have to say a word but I would like to share some of my journey with her. At the end of an hour, we were on our knees together, tears pouring down our faces in the healing presence of Jesus Christ.
When she left that day, and ran into her husband’s arms something inside my five feet four-inch frame rose up. I remember thinking, no more! No more allowing earthly labels to tell me who I am. That day I committed myself to fight for you as well. I don’t know what you have been through, you might be right in the middle of a mess at the moment but I want to remind you who you really are.
You are the one Jesus loves.
Yes, you! The apostle John got it first. Three times in his gospel, that’s how he identified himself.
The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. — John 13:23 NLT
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” — John 20:1-2 NLT
Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved. — John 21:20 NLT
I don’t believe that John thought Jesus loved him more than the others, he just really got it, deep down, marrow-of-the-bone kind of understanding — This is who I really am. I am the one Jesus loves.
So, that’s my prayer for you today. Let the labels go.
Kick your way out of the box and be free.
So, today and tomorrow and every day after that whenever you catch your reflection in the mirror, in a puddle or in a store window remember who you really are,
I am the one Jesus loves!
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