What are your labels? Here are mine, at least a start:
31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
One day, I read the parable of the mustard seed, and I got it! It blew my mind. I had read that parable 100 times and wondered, what in the heck does that mean!?! But this time, I saw it instead of reading it. I saw the seed, I saw it so small & that it’s identity was a seed. It knew what it was, a seed. Seeds are nutritious, mustard seeds can be used to make burgers and sandwiches and salads tasty. But, the seed did not see its potential. It did not see that by dying, being put in dirt, drenched in water, it would transform. The transformation process isn’t pretty. When I taught 3rd grade, we did a project where we taped baggies filled with wet paper towels and seeds to the classroom windows to watch the plant growing process. For days I t looked like nothing was happening, but one day little roots were extending from the seed, the next day or two produced a stem with the seed casing stuck to the top. It looked ugly & useless, no longer able to be eaten, not able to at least look pretty. But, a few days later, the seed hull would fall off and green leaves would appear. The seed took on a plant like look, still not useful, but at least pleasant to look at, at least identifiable.
At this point, the plants must have some type of nutrients or they won’t grow into their potential, but with nutrition and continued hydration, what once was a seed is now a plant. In this case, the small mustard seed is a large bush in a garden where birds can rest. God saw the bush when he looked at the seed. He sees what we are created to be when he looks at us. It doesn’t bother him when we are in the weird phase and we appear useless, no longer what we were, but not yet useful to anyone because he sees the final product. The process doesn’t intimidate or frustrate him. Just like the kids in my classroom would bound in each day to check the progress of their seed and get excited over the smallest change, God gets excited over each step in our transformation, even the ones we think are ugly. (I wonder if God created vegetation just so Jesus could teach that parable, just so we could understand his ways.)
So how does this relate to labels? My list was very different 20, 15, 10, 2 years ago. My list is evidence of transformation. 15 years ago hopeful would not have been on the list because I had not yet learned that I can trust God to work ALL THINGS (especially cancer) for my good. Angry has been replaced with calm because God is just. Self righteous has been replaced with forgiving because I have failed people and needed forgiveness. Nagging wife with Good mate. Bad speller hasn’t been replaced, but the shame when people correct my spelling is gone. I’ve come to rejoice that there is no perfect & if I’m not the best at something, it gives someone else an opportunity to be. And God partnered me with a spouse that can spell anything, backwards (he’s great for Scategories and proofreading) and friends that can diagram sentences, so if I ever write a book, I’ve got resources…
Two years ago loveable would not have been on my list because I usuallly felt rejected and lonely, and this was magnified by a relationship that was broken and a couple of friends moving away. I had not yet learned to quit comparing myself to other people to find my identity. I spent a great deal of time failing to be like my closest friends, and this left me feeling guilty most all the time that I wasn’t an organic farming gourmet cook. (I have no interest in cooking or farming, much less time to do it, but I continually chastised myself for this lack of skill.) This season was a time of great loss. In fact I was so broken that I had to keep apologizing to a new acquaintance because I would push away to protect myself from being vulnerable. I knew this friend was safe, but my wounds in this ugly phase made me pretty useless in relationships. Through this pain, I learned what a wonderful friend I have in my husband, as I began to talk to him about the things on my heart I reserved for my girlfriends. I learned that Jesus is not just my Lord, but he is my friend. And last night, when I couldn’t sleep and I was frustrated with the side effects of radiation and ready to pack my bags and come home & screw treatment, I could rest in the arms of my Jesus who reminded me that from the beginning he has been assuring me that this is a transformation process. He is at work, and this time is a transition into a new phase of life. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I trust him. He’s got this.
There are still many parts of me that need to die, but that is His journey to orchestrate. I’m sure I don’t even recognize the behaviors/patterns as evil that he wants to eliminate next, so I can’t “self help” my way out of them. I can however bend to the process of transformation he is making in me. I can get excited about the small changes and celebrate them instead of bemoaning the ugly phases. (Even the bald spots appearing on the top of my head, I will find a way to celebrate, because somehow they are evidence of victory. Natalie Skaggs, if you are reading this, you have your work cut out for you when I get home 💇🏼✂️!)
I asked the Father for his list of labels for me. I won’t share, because I’m writing this in the chemotherapy room and I don’t have them with me, but I will treasure them. His list is beautiful and refined and a promise of what will be. He’s asked me to exchange my list for his. What is your list? Will you give up your labels for his? I’d love to see your list. I feel like I should leave you with Isaiah 61, so we can celebrate the work of his love in each of our lives.