Labels

Once or twice each week on my commute, I drive past a house that can barely be seen because the yard is overgrown. I can’t help but wonder how this previously well-manicured lawn became such a mess. As I was driving today, I was also chatting to my associate on the phone. I casually glanced at the yard and noticed a very pretty older lady working to restore the lawn to its former pristine condition.

I interrupted the conversation with my associate without hanging up, “Excuse me, can you hold on for just a minute?” With his compliance, I rolled my window down and slowed to a stop to speak to the lady.

“What you are doing looks so good!” She smiled and as soon as she did, I realized she was stunning. Her eyes matched her silver hair and I could not believe how beautiful she was when she casually brushed the sweat from her forehead. She told me that she was helping to fix the place up for her son because he had experienced medical problems. I could tell she was enjoying the work. She absolutely glowed at the compliment regarding her efforts.

When I resumed the phone conversation with my associate, he was laughing as he exclaimed, “You are the most extroverted introvert in the world.” I let that sink in because, as is true of most introverts, I am reflective. I considered another incident earlier in the day as I began to confirm his appraisal of my personality.

I had received a call from a telemarketer and, after just 10 minutes, I knew his name, the names, breeds, and grooming preferences of his three dogs, and how he and his family planned to vacation once they were able to do so. Although he did not make a sale or learn anything about me, I was glad I was able to make him smile for a few minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed learning a bit about the stranger who, like us all, was just trying to make a living.

It may seem that I am an extrovert. I speak for a living, so it’s a reasonable assumption. For the few people who know me well or have had the awkward experience of seeing me in crowds in which I am not working, it is clear that I am in fact very bashful!

My friends have to beg me out of the house for social interactions. I prefer to pick up dinner and take it home instead of eating out. But when I do eat out, I will know the names and other fun facts about the wait staff before I leave.

I believe everyone has a really cool story and I love to hear them all. Yet, I also feel blessed when I can just ride with someone and they can run in and pick up dinner while I wait in the car. Sometimes I enjoy working from coffee houses, because it’s revitalizing to be around a group of people and not necessarily be expected to interact. Really, I am that shy.

You see, every interaction is intentional and purposeful for me. If you invite me to coffee or dinner or lunch and I accept, it is because I value you enough to step out of my comfort zone. I believe you are worth it.

If I don’t know you and I choose to compliment you or your work, it is because I mean it. I think what you do is important, and your work is incredible.

If I stand in front of groups of 2-25 and teach time management, conflict management, or organizational systems, it is because I believe these groups have what it takes to be successful and I can help. If I stand in front of hundreds to motivate and inspire, it’s because I know that someone in that crowd needs what I have to offer.

Introverts would not talk to as many strangers as I do in a day. Extroverts would not seek the comfort of solidarity regularly. I do both of these things! This contradiction eventually led me to an internal conflict that drove the introspective introvert of myself crazy while the extrovert in me just rolled her eyes.

You see, the world tells me that I am extroverted. I tell myself that I am introverted. But the truth is, all that I am is fearfully and wonderfully made just the way that my God intended me to be. (Psalm 139:14). Although I am very shy, I am also an encourager! (Romans 12:6-8)- A combination only God could create that suits me perfectly for my purpose to serve and honor Him in a very unique way.

The point I’m making is that it is easy to accept labels, assign labels, try desperately to detach from labels or even harder to live up to them. It’s exhausting. We spend a significant part of our time defining ourselves by how other people see us and they spend a significant part of their energies seeing us through filtered lenses that reflect our actions. Let’s be honest, we sometimes do the same to them and it isn’t fair.

It may seem natural to let our actions define us and, in a sense, our actions do stem from our beliefs and circumstances but even the best of us make mistakes. No one is perfect and I certainly would hate to carry the labels that I have shamefully earned in my past. It’s okay; I don’t have to. God has created a clean heart in me and I am a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As humans, we can’t escape from our tendency to examine, accept or reject labels. But as Christians, we are given labels that truly fit! Instead of looking to the world or even to ourselves, we can look to the Bible!

God’s word tells me that I am forgiven (1 John 1:9)! I am a child of God (John 1:12)! I am saved (Romans 10:9) and I am loved (John 3:16)! – Now those are some labels!

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…”

Isaiah 43:4, ESV

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