Say what you want about zoos. I have my own reservations about many. But while visiting my dear friends Bree and Lynn this past week in Dallas, my kids and I finally sank into the bliss of summer at a magical place of animal habitats.
The zoo. A one-stop party of animals from across the wild world. We wandered through the continents and gazed at creation. From the giraffes my daughter adores, to the tigers my boy couldn’t wait to see, we allowed our shoulders to unfurl and our heads to tip back with laughter.
Sticky hot with the Texas sun, we meandered and strolled as much as we could while chasing children. But then I stumbled upon words. Words which stole my breath. There was a sign. A description of a caged bird.
The Lesser Bird of Paradise.
Allow that to swirl in your heart for a moment. Lesser. Can you imagine such a label? To be caged and chained by such a name? To be forever be called…less?
Maybe you can.
We live in a world of labels. Names from which we either must live up to or come out from under. Names given to us by others—parents, teachers, friends, enemies. Names we give ourselves.
Labels fly through the air. Ready to hit their mark, tearing through the fabric of our souls. Ugly. Skinny. Fat. Addict. Controlling. Bossy. Freak. Annoying. Gorgeous. Gifted. Learning disabled. ADHD. Nerd. ASD. Mentally unstable. Crazy. Bitch. Slut. Loser. Bastard. Talented. Useless. Mistake. Smart. Waste of space.
Harsh words. Cutting words. Destructive words. Killing words.
Do you know the darkness of any of those words? Those labels? I do. The pain of a label can haunt us the whole of our lives. We allow them to define us. They fuel our mistakes. They weigh us down. They shackle us to an existence from which some only dream of breaking free.
I remember the afternoon I read a note passed from a boy to a friend about me. Ugly. That was his label. For me. I think sometimes the scar has never fully healed. And I know you bear scars too.
I love that word. But.
God is the rescuer of the outcast, the discouraged, the hurting. He is the redeemer of the broken labels we’ve been given by broken people.
Because the Bird of Paradise mankind has named Lesser is still a bird handcrafted by the Creator. Every feather, every bone, every color—chosen by the same God who created you and me. He did not name the bird Lesser. Humans did.
Humans are the creators of labels. In the face of this reality, I must wonder: Who lives with a label I have bestowed? Oh, how I must guard my words.
Because God does not label. Instead He sees into our hearts. He sees the true essence of who were are. He sees all the beauty we are capable of bringing to the world. He sees His children.
I am known by the Creator of the heavens and earth as only daughter—the daughter of a King. And when the enemy comes to my door, whispering labels of venom, of poison, I need only remind him of his outcome—defeat.
While I don’t always remember that my labels mean nothing, and there are days I fall victim to the toxic words of the one who steals my joy, I find comfort in knowing through Christ, I have no label to live up to. No title to achieve. No name to be ashamed of.
My friends? Today, I ache for you to know the value and the worth you hold. You’re a masterpiece simply because you exist. You’re a precious jewel—priceless. God has created you with a purpose to be like no other on this earth.
You need never live under the burdens of human labels. Instead, cling tight to the One who designed you. He loves you just the way you are.
He stretched himself across splintered wood to prove His love knows no bounds. Just the way you are.
Just the way you are. No label can ever take that away.
When you refuse to be defined by a label? When you determine to know you are loved? When you embrace the purpose God has for you?
You will find your voice. You will sing.