Night falls early in these parts, so I imagine the deed was done early one evening. The ‘deed’ being the scrawling of an ugly word with an even uglier meaning, onto the front of a car. By scrawling I really mean scratching. Leaving a permanent mark.
I don’t know the victim of the ‘crime’ – the owner of the car at the time. She obviously had upset someone. Maybe a jealousy was playing out in a very real way. Maybe it was a spiteful prank gone wrong. I don’t know – but I do know this – she didn’t deserve to be branded in such a scarring way.
We are now in possession of the aforementioned branded car. A long time loan while its current owner is overseas. I can’t help but notice the unpleasant word every time I get in or out of that car. It looks very out-of-place the few times it has been parked at my boys’ school. Their ‘private Christian College’ school.
In the bible, in John 4, we read of a woman who was branded with the same word that appears on our car. The Samaritan woman with a bit of ‘baggage’. Jesus approached her at the well and asked her for some water. Now this was not the common practice in that day at all – not common for a Jewish man to speak publicly to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and even less common to talk to a Samaritan woman with a past like hers.
In his book ‘Powerful and free, confronting the glass ceiling for women in the church’, Danny Silk looks at this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and notes that ‘Not only does Jesus talk with her, but he also talks with her about theology – a topic expressly forbidden to discuss with women. In one conversation, Jesus literally sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with the extreme love of God that sees the treasure in every human heart’.
The people around the Samaritan woman would have had all manner of labels stuck on her. All sorts of branding. Yet Jesus was able to look into her eyes and see her simply as a child of God. He saw in her purpose. And hope. A future.
He saw the treasure that is in every human heart.
He looked past her past, and saw what she could be in her present. And she did use that information he shared with her; the fact that he revealed his true identity as the Messiah for the first time, to her, she went back to her people and shared the good news with them. She brought people to him. There must have been some point in her thinking when she realized ‘if this man the Christ sees me, then I am worthy’, for her to have gone back to her people with enough confidence to share her story with them, to bring others to Him. All it took was for her to see herself as the Lord saw her – worthy. Daughter. Beloved one.
We all wear labels of some sort. Some of these labels are positive, some are negative. Some stop us from seeing ourselves as God sees us. My husband and I have to look past the label on our car. We know that this branding doesn’t affect how the car drives, its effectiveness in doing what it was designed to do. We have to choose to not focus on the negative connotations of this label. What if we all carried this on to every area of our lives? To every dark and hidden corner of our hearts? What if we all worked on trying to rip off every label that has been imposed upon us, by simply accepting the Father’s love for us.
Jesus sees the treasure that is in every human heart. We are his children. What if we start walking in that? What if we start living that out? We are loved with an everlasting love. We were created in His image. I think it is time to start ripping those labels off – time to help your friends and relatives see themselves as God sees them. Cherished. Beloved. Designed while we were in our Mother’s wombs for a purpose.
I’m gonna start tearing off some self-imposed labels and others-imposed labels…..how about you? Are you in?