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It’s midnight. I’m nestled among my covers and pillows. The light on my side of the bed is on. My body is comfortable but my mind is uneasy. Pages are spread out over the top of the covers. I’m reading first hand accounts of slavery. Smallville is situated in the middle of cotton fields, fields that were once tended by slaves.

In the 1930s, historians realized that the number of people who had been held in bondage by the chains of slavery was dwindling. Interviewers circulated among the remaining ex-slaves and recorded their stories. Their voices come to life in my mind. I can picture old Turner crying, heartbroken over the death of a kind white woman. I close my eyes after reading about a slave whose hands and feet were nailed to a board after running away. Closed eyes do not shut out the image. Anna, the daughter of a slave and a slave owner’s son reminisces about the good old days. For Anna, slavery was better than freedom. Frank described how after the war his master was reluctant to let his father go. He saw his daddy whipped and chained to a tree. Frank remained by his father’s side for a week before the master relented and undid the chains.

The men and women who tell these stories share them matter-of-factly as if the lives they lived were ordinary. Political correctness and self-esteem had not yet been stamped on the hearts of African Americans in the 1930s. They refer to themselves and their fellow blacks as niggers and darkies. I find these words on almost every page. I am surprised to see how they appropriated the derogatory labels for themselves, how the men and women in my midnight reading dressed themselves with these words.

Labels. How easily we accept the names that others hold out to us. Ugly, stupid, shy, fat, divorcee, old maid, self-righteous, religious zealots… How easily we cling to mistakes and imperfections and call ourselves names that do not help us live a victorious life.

The children and I just read John 8. The Name Calling Chapter. The Pharisees will be satisfied with nothing less than the murder of Jesus. Jesus knows this, yet, at the height of the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before his crucifixion, he marches into enemy territory (the Temple) and sits down to teach the crowd and to provoke the religious leaders. He’s there to seal His doom. The religious elite call him an illegimate child, demon possessed and the most vile term they can think of…a Samaritan. This chapter does not show Jesus accepting these words and slinking off in defeat. "I tell you the truth," he declares, "before Abraham was born, I am!…My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me….I know where I came from and where I am going."

Jesus is confident. He does not rise up in anger or flee in tears because He knows who He is. So must we. When words are hurled at us…from family…from coworkers…from the media and even the words that we accuse ourselves with, we must fight back with truth. We must know who we are as Christians. We spend much time looking for the names of God in the Bible. And well we should, but, we should also know the names that God calls us.

Beloved of God, A Royal Priesthood, Disciple, Saint, Christian, My Chosen, Co-Heirs with Christ, Sons, Daughters, My People…

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.


Alana said…
I'm so guilty of hurling unkind words at myself. It is something I'm working on. Thanks for the reminder, Kate.
Sunydazy said…
Excellent food for thought. I needed this tonight.
Beloved of God. That is my favorite!

L.L. Barkat said…
A thoughtful reflection.

The psychology of victims is quite interesting, isn't it? But I like how the psychology of God can replace the psychology of our victimization.

But I like how the psychology of God can replace the psychology of our victimization.

He sure can. It is wonderful to be able to walk onto of the past instead of wallowing in it, isn't it?

lori said…
ahhhh labels...I can't help but think that if there were one thing that dissappoints God most, it has to be labels...after all, we are utimately hurling them at HIM....your post forced me to pause and think about what I call myself at times...

On another note...101 degrees in have got to be in Georgia!! Its 103 here today:)
Stay Cool!! Just might take you up on the ice cream for dinner!!
Etta said…
Great post, Kate. The insult Satan has been throwing at my family is "There's no way you can do it!"

Ah, but with God, all things are possible. "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me." Praise the Lord He gives us everything we need for the tasks He calls us to do.

Thanks for the reminder!!
Faith said…
What heartbreaking reading, but a thoughtful reflection. I do so adore Jesus for His confidence--that's one thing I pray that I grow in, the steady and unshakable confidence that comes from knowing Him, and then who I am in Him.
Jennifer said…
Reminds me of one of my favorite lines of a song... "they cannot make me less, for you have made me whole." Awesome.
By the way, have you ever read or seen a children's book called "You are Special" by Max Lucado? Wonderful book about "labels." My sister bought it for my daughter a few years ago, and while it is a terrific children's book, even adults can benefit from its message!
Xandra said…
OK...I'm officially hooked on your blog! Thank you so much for sharing your insight in such a thoughtful, well-written way. I look forward to visiting again and again.

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