Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Labels Lie

I follow an organization on Facebook called People of the Second Chance. Just the name moves me. Their campaigns, posts, blogs, and photos challenge me every day. As I’ve said before, I like to think I’m a non judgmental person. I believe I am, in most cases. I say most, because I know I don’t have all my bases covered. There are still large patches of me that are bare, as yet uncovered by the grace I’ve struggled so long to accept.

POTSC’s latest campaign, Labels Lie, caught me with its raw, grainy photos of people stamped with a label over their faces, obscuring who they really are. This is me. Was me. I was labeled with a teen pregnancy, and I’ve felt the heavy weight of that stamp ever since. I always qualify my situation, to head peoples’ judgements off at the pass:

“I was already engaged, the wedding date was already set. There was no shot gun wedding. I never slept around. I married the only man I ever slept with.”

Somehow, the qualifications make me feel more guilty. Next month, it will have been nine years since the day I sat in the doctor’s office having my world shaken, my life forever changed. Nine long years of feeling the grime of my mistakes coat me like oil.

Slut.

Cheap.

Easy.

Disappointment.

That girl.

I never wanted to be her. And yet I became her, more through my perception of myself than anyone else’s. I’ve turned it into a hateful joke of sorts, calling myself out before anyone has the opportunity to do it for me. “I was a model child. The worst thing I ever did was get pregnant out of wedlock.” With a background like mine, that’s about the worst thing a girl CAN do. Drug addicts can be rehabilitated. Alcoholics can be set free. A girl who gets pregnant? Well, she’s stuck with that mistake forever, now, isn’t she? And serves her right, too. She knew what she was doing. Knew the consequences.

Labels lie. I’ve lied to myself for nine years, seen myself through this dark filter that I’ve accepted as my cross to bear. I earned it, after all. No matter that my son was born perfect and healthy, and lights up my life. No matter that my life has been restored, my husband loves me, my family doesn’t judge me or shun me. The good things, the grace, I never earned, and, more truthfully, never accepted. The mantle of humiliation, I’ve wrapped around me tighter than my skin. I’ve embraced the label, tattooed it upon my heart, when others long ago gave it up.

Labels lie. I lie. I lie to myself every time I say I’m not a judgmental person. When I say that grace is freely given and freely received. Because the truth of the matter is, I’ve labeled myself more fiercely than anyone else has ever labeled me, more harshly than I would ever presume to label another person. I’ve written upon my own face this label, and I see it whenever I study the mirror, whenever I look into my heart, and at times, even when I look into the face of my son. I’ve never, ever freely received any grace, accepted the truth. Instead, I’ve believed and perpetuated a lie about who I am based on what I did.

The truth is, I am whole.

The truth is, I receive forgiveness and embrace grace.

The truth is, I am exceedingly and abundantly blessed.

The truth is, I am made new. Not just restored; completely new.

The truth is, labels lie.

And I choose truth.

11 comments:

  1. I love you! Remember, we're our own worst enemy. I think it's time you erase your label & you owe NOBODY an explanation - ever. It's none of their business and, as you say, the family has done nothing but love you & that wonderful young man you're raising.
    The only 'labels' you should wear: Child of GOD; beautiful daughter, sister, niece, cousin, wife, mom, aunt & friend. Love, Auntie <3

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  2. forgot granddaughter.

    <3 Auntie

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  3. Thank you for sharing your heart in this post. The courage displayed in being transparent is beautiful. Honored to be POTSC with you.

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  5. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so...
    {shout it} from the rooftops!

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  6. This is so beautiful. And honest. I'm in love with what POTSC is doing, and sometimes easier to extend grace to others than ourselves. My mother had me in college, didn't marry my "father," and went through all the pain that comes with a conservative small town. I wonder if she sometimes feels this way. All I know is that she always tells me that God takes broken situations and makes them beautiful by grace. Beautiful post :)

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  7. Thank you.

    I like the image of your label being tattooed on your heart. I have one of those, too. Well, at least one

    Slowly, we are working to remove the ink...can't really use laser removal on our hearts.

    When I read your post, I get this image in my head of POTSC - and the Labels Lie campaign - being a tattoo remover. LOL Just another role for us to play!!!

    Congratulations on your beautiful family - and for allowing God into your life to bring beauty from the fear.

    Proud to be POTSC with you!!!

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  8. I love you, Princess. I am absolutely blessed and thankful to be your father.

    Daddy

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  9. Thank you. Thank you for saying what I have been hiding in my heart...my judgment on myself. I was raised in a Christian home, married, went to Bible school, had 3 kids, got divorced, got engaged to another man and got pregnant. I built my defenses by labeling myself before all the Christians around me could label me. I married my son's father. My son is now 16 and the light of my life. But for all these years, I have labeled myself a failure. That tattoo on my heart should have been covered over by the blood of the lamb, but I kept that part of me to myself. I didn't turn it over to Him. I will do that now. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your label. I'm so glad to be a part of POTSC!!

    Blessings,
    ~Erin

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