Labels

My daughter Catherine is a dancer.  I’ve never taken one dance class, which is no surprise to you if you’ve spent any time with me.  I don’t have a gazelle-like running stride, and my Steady Form post reveals how often I eat pavement on runs.  Catherine’s been dancing for ten years, but it wasn’t until recently that I considered dance a “sport” and dancers “athletes”.  I had previously labeled them “fine arts”.  However, I’ve learned dance demands commitment, frequent practice, endurance, rhythm, mental focus, balance, physical strength, agility, flexibility, and more “uniforms” and footwear than you can imagine … sounds like a “sport” to me.  What’s more, dancers must appear polished and poised, despite the sweat and intense, physical effort they embrace.  While their refined stage presence lands them in “fine arts”, you won’t find a locker room with more fit, dedicated, or energetic athletes.

The Samaritan woman said to [Jesus], “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”  For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  John 4:9

We label others based on their profession, skin color, age, political affiliation, religious beliefs, alma mater, clothing, neighborhood, car … you name it.  Labels such as “mini-van driver”, “Jayhawk”, “Caucasian”, and “attorney” aren’t intrinsically positive or negative.  Actually, “attorney” is an inherently negative word for some, but I can say that because I am one.  The other labels, however, are simply descriptive.  Labeling is often a necessary, productive act in our organized society.  It can, however, lead us astray.  I can be quick to label others based on very little information.  I then attribute to them the traits I connect with my “one-size-fits-all” label and assume I know a few things about them.  And while many labels don’t stand the test of time as people change, I find it’s hard to un-label someone.  My transgressions grow when I start to judge others based on my labeling.  Judgment of others is no business of mine, and I wish I was better about leaving it to God.  If Jesus had been concerned with labels, He probably wouldn’t have acknowledged the Samaritan woman at the well.  But, He had no such concern.  He was interested in the content of her heart.  Likewise, the content of our hearts is what interests Him today.  I want to be like Him, able to see beyond all labels that might influence my perception of others and my relationship with them.  I want to strive to know the hearts of the people God places in my path with no regard to how our world or I might label them.  Let’s leave the labeling and judgment to God.  You might even find an attorney you like.  We all have hearts.

Dear God, please help me be concerned with knowing the heart of each person You place in my path.

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