Let me tell you something about me you may not know.
I have a real hatred of wearing name badges! I cannot give you a rational reason for this or an insight into my psychological make-up but, for some reason, whenever I am on a training course or exhibition or conference and the name badges are handed out my heart sinks.
One time, my wife and I were on a training course and found a number of other people who had the same feeling. We spent the week swapping names with each other just to irritate the trainers! The church where I minister, at one time, wanted us to wear name badges. Miraculously, mine all seemed to vanish (I wonder how that happened!!??!!)
I don’t have a phobia of badges, nor do I like to keep my identity a secret but, I just don’t like wearing them!
I was reflecting on this during the week when I attended a training course organised by a group outside of my denomination. I was relieved to discover that we could just introduce ourselves and identify where in the country we came from and there wasn’t a name badge in sight!
An incident took place at lunch time that shed some light on my dislike of badges.
As we took our lunch break and I sat chatting at the table with a few people, there were two people at a nearby table who were engaging in what I can only describe as “evangelical bashing”. They were ministers from their denomination (I am not saying that all ministers in that denomination would accept their views) and it was hard to avoid their comments because, they were quite animated in their discussions.
As their conversation and views unfolded I began to find that my hackles were beginning to rise and I was in two minds whether to go over and speak to them. I will not repeat their comments but, dear reader, I was reaching the point where I wanted to go over and bless them with the laying on of fists.
I chose not to, to keep my mouth shut. It was only later in the car home I began to reflect. Why did my hackles rise and why did I not challenge? Perhaps it was because an intervention would not have helped. Perhaps it was because I knew there were elements of truth in what they were saying. Perhaps, dear reader, I was simply a coward (don’t worry if that’s what you think, I wont be offended!).
I think my hackles rose because, if I had to wear a theological label, it would be Evangelical Charismatic. I know that there many things about that label that I don’t like and there are some evangelicals who hold views that I struggle with.
In the main, however, my hackles rose because I really dislike the process of labelling. If I put a label on myself, that is my choice and I choose what label I wear. If somebody puts a label on me, I have no say within that and I can become a target for their prejudice, expectations or demands. To try and either live up too or escape from the label placed upon us is almost impossible and certainly not good for our well-being.
Are there labels that are put on us that could be helpful for us? Does God ever label us? I believe that God created us as individuals, loves us as individuals and longs to bless us as individuals and, therefore, anything that God says of us is done out of His love for us.
Recently, some kind friend sent me some words in the form of a poem by Henri Nouwen;
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours.
You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.
I have moulded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.
I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.
I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.
Wherever you go, I go with you, and whenever you rest, I keep watch.
I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.
I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me.
I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse… yes, even your child… wherever you are I will be.
Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.”
This is a label that I not only am I prepared to wear but, I am happy to do so and I hope you can wear it too.