"Then the Lord answered him, 'You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" -Luke 13:15-16
We live and love and breathe in a world filled with labels. Skinny, fat, married, single, rich, poor, believer, non-believer - and that is just the start. These labels are used so often, assigned so flippantly, that they often end up leading our hearts, our minds, our entire selves to the ultimate labels: worthy, unworthy.
It is likely that the labels we use to identify ourselves, the labels we succumb ourselves to, are not a direct assignment from our own giving. It is not as if we wake each morning, stand before the mirror and choose to allow this burden of labeling to sit upon and inside our hearts; it is not as if we desire such labeling to be at the very core of our self-talk.
Recently a dear, irreplaceable friend of mine was listening quite attentively to me, in the most basic of terms, tear myself down for the things I don't have, for not being labeled the things the world has taught me I must be labeled with, in order to be a fuller, more complete version of myself; in the middle of the verbal destruction I have mastered quite eloquently, she looked me square in the eye and said, "When are you going to stop leading with the things you aren't as your identifiers and start leading with the things you are?"
Because, you see, I'm never Steph Duff - writer, lover of children and the melodious sound of their giggles, loyal friend, loud laugher, voracious reader and journal-er, and caffeine enthusiast, I am always Steph Duff - single, poor, fat, broken, weak, and full of inadequacies.
Her question stopped me cold - because, really, when was I going to stop doing that? When was I going to realize that a ring on my finger, a new last name, and a high paying job was never going to make me the most of who I was made to be? When was I going to realize that, perhaps, I just may be the most effective version of myself right now - poor and single and messy?
I think about the Woman with the Disabling Spirit in Luke 13; in a recent article for SheLoves Magazine, Jonathon Martin writes in his piece "Daughter of Abraham" of this very woman : Her infirmity defined her to the world around her and to herself. She is the bent woman, the crippled lady. As a woman whose line of sight is always aimed toward the ground beneath her, she is not the sort of woman who would have had the confidence to call out to Jesus.
After reading this article, which you should check out here, I started to consider this woman, "A daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years . . ." whose eyes could only fall on the ground, whose body could never fully stand tall to greet people with a smile and I realized that, in the midst of always listening to the lies of this world, to the labels Satan has lobbed my way, I was spiritually just like this bent over woman. I am able to stand tall, yet I look away from others' eyes, I avoid mirrors as much as possible, I live with a spirit that has her eyes to the ground.
We live in a world filled with labels, in a world that is in a constant state of motion to inform of us of just what we must purchase to fulfill a, b, and c. We live in a world that is perpetually informing us of what we are lacking and what we must do in order to fulfill that lacking - only to let us down. We live in a world that we were not made for, therefore, our fulfillments are never going to run over, we are never going to acquire just everything we need.
In the moments after that conversation, after reading this particular article, it occurred to me that I very well may change my last name and wear a shiny bauble on my left finger; I may have all the money I could hope for and more and I just may find myself in a smaller jean size one day - but I will still yearn for more, I will still be chasing after another label, I will still be coming up short, feeling inadequate, and identifying myself by what I'm lacking instead of what I'm bringing.
Because I am not a daughter to this world, to our culture, or to every mean comment or look I've ever received. I am not a daughter to my weight, my paycheck, or the ex-boyfriends that have moved on and married. I am not a daughter to the enemy, to the lies of him and this world, or to the lies I feed myself.
I am the daughter of the King, to Abraham, to only the truth and identity that Christ gives me.
Martin says it better than I ever could: Weakness does not define you. Labels that have been assigned by others do not define you. You are daughters of Abraham, heirs of the covenant. You are part of God’s cosmic plan through which He will restore the creation—one of the ones through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed.
What Jesus says is the only thing about you that is true and the only thing that matters. Don’t let anyone else assign an identity, except Jesus. You are a daughter of Abraham–not invisible–and God wants to show you off to the world.
You are a daughter of Abraham - not invisible - and God wants to show you off to the world. (Emphasis mine)
It's time I stop counting the days until I turn the age that I must be married by, it's time I stop comparing my body to every other woman's around me, it's time I just STOP leading with what I'm not. And it's time I START leading with what I am. And Whose I am.
There can be nothing but promise in that.
It's time to loosen these bonds and to dance in this freedom.