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The Good And The Bad of Labels
I recently received a correspondence from a reader of my Bible Studies. It is she that has inspired me to write this article. Her comment was that everything has to have a label on it and she is sick of labels! Of course their was more to this conversation, but that is the comment which inspired this article.
Labels are a necessity of life when used for good. Examples of good labels are: "Jam" as to let you know its not "Jelly". "Caution, contents may be poisonous" is a good label to know. Good labels not only let you know what the contents of a sealed container, they also are great for organizing school notebook's, recipe's, work folder, etc... All in all a good label lets you know what is inside the object you are looking at and helps you locate what you want to find.
What is a bad label? One that separates people by race, creed or religion. This kind of label tends to offend when not used for good, Ex.: Pollock, stupid, etc.. Religious titles separate God's people; one denomination is the only one going to heaven, one is more spiritual while the rest of us are just out of luck. And in all these walls of partition, Jesus is left out.
Another bad label is the one that is placed where it doesn't belong. Ex.: The drawer looks like the sock drawer, smell's like the sock drawer so you put the label "Sock's" there without ever opening it to see if it really is. Then one day you go to this sock drawer and find out that the smell indeed was not sock's but your husbands dirty work shirt's. Your only problem then is deciding, do my husband's work shirt's smell like my sock's or do my sock's smell like his work shirt's?
Seriously though, this type of label to me is the most destructive label because people never take the time to look inside another person to see what they are really like before they put a label on them such as: "Stupid", "Ugly", "Fatty" "Dummy","Fool", etc... These labels become cruel whether dished out by children or grown-ups. These labels can kill!
When I started first grade I could not buckle, tie or snap. That's when the name calling and laughter started. A child also brought up the fact that she heard her mother say that I was an illegitimate child. As I did not know what that was, she said it meant I had no Daddy. The teacher and grown-ups thought, "kids will be kids". No one took the time to find out the reason I could not do those things or why the daddy I had was my Step-Dad.
They did not know that when I was born, my real Dad needed a way out of the marriage because he fell in love with his nurse during the Korean War. My mother, knowing this, made up a secret admirer in hopes of making him jealous so he would come back to her. When I came into being he said I was not his and that if she gave me his name he would kill my mother, the doctor and me. So she borrowed a friend's name so that I would not be born with an ugly label.
That is how my life began. Left with four children to care for on her own and work scarce she prostituted herself to make ends meet. When my older sister was eight years old, one of my mothers customer's raped her. After numerous reports of neglect and alcoholism from the neighbors as well, we were taken from our mother and placed in an orphanage.
Being the youngest child the orphanage ever had, 2 years old, they did not know what to do with me. Many times I was just placed in a room by myself. I was placed on the floor with toys. Their was a desk and once in a while a
pair of shoes attached to two legs would walk over and start a "top" for me--one of those you use to pump to make go around and around. Then she would go out the door. I would sit for hours at a time trying to get that top to work by
myself, sometimes she came back in and started it for me again.
As I got older I was allowed to walk in line with the older children at recess. On weekends, my sister and brother's and I were allowed to see each other for a few minutes. Sometimes my Mother's sister would come and get us on the
weekends; breast cancer put an end to that. It was a horribly lonely time when all the room was emptied of children and I was left alone looking and watching for someone, anyone to come get me and no one came.
My mother had married a second time and their was hope of becoming a family. I must of been about four by then. Our first day and night together as a family was our last. My mother and her new husband fought all day after much drinking. That night she killed him-stabbed him to death. The court released her. There is more to this part
but I will not discuss it. End result, back to the orphanage.
When I was six years of age, my mother had remarried; a very good, kind, patient, longsuffering man. He was the only daddy I ever knew. He took five children (my mother gave birth to my little sister by her second husband) who were not his into his home and raised them as his own and endured many hardships for them.
These were the reasons I could not tie, or buckle. I was never taught at the orphanage or during the short visits with family.
As the years went by the laughter and name calling continued, as still, no one took the time to look past the package wrapped in wrinkled
clothes and messed up hair. Now the children where bold enough and old enough to throw stones and apples as they chased me home from school. They couldn't understand why I would break down in tears in the middle of class, or why my clothes were wrinkled sometimes. They had no idea that as time went on my mother's drinking started up again. No idea that night after night, day after day their was fighting, yelling and screaming going on in our house.
Often-times we were chased with butcher knives around the house; hit with anything my mother could get her hands on (mostly when Daddy wasn't home). We were hit with rails to a crib, dog chain, shoe; and once in one of her rages, my brother Kim and I were arguing about who was going to wash dishes and who would dry. A normal, common argument among siblings. My mother walked in, grabbed the towel out of my hands, wrapped it around my brother's neck and began to twist. Nothing I tried to do to get her off of him worked. He was turning blue when he kicked her in the shin and she let go. To this day I do not know if she even knew what she was doing; the look on her face was so strange. This was our home life.
My mother didn't always restrict her fighting to indoors, she was nice enough to include the neighbor's a time or two. After that we were not allowed by any of the neighbor's for a long time to play with their children, nor were we
allowed to walk in their yards and if they could keep us off the public sidewalk they would have.
Here I was, the scum of the earth. My mother could say the cruelest things when she was drunk, all those labels again. Between her, the school and the neighbor's surely their was no reason for me to break out in tears! My mother never
worked and it was my older sister, Mary Ann's, job to clean house and take care of us and she was only six years older than I. When we were old enough, we shared doing the chores; It was too big a job for a child to do, and oftentimes we took turns staying up all night pacifying our mother so the rest of us could get some sleep. A couple of times I was awakened by my mother's voice only to see her punching my sister over and over again anywhere she could with her fist. Those were the reasons for the wrinkled clothes and the messy hair. You have to look inside the package before you place a label.
Year after year I cried on my birthday because I lived to see another day. How I longed to die. Death had seemed such a wonderful way out, but someone, somewhere, when I was small-before the orphanage told me their was a God and that He loved me. I knew God was real, He was my best and often my only friend. My parents sent us to a
Catholic School, it was there, too, that I heard that God loved us, and we learned about Jesus dying on the cross, but back then salvation wasn't mentioned and I never knew why He had to be nailed to that cross. If it were not for this
knowledge of God's love, and being taught that if a person committed suicide they could not go to heaven, I could not have survived, I would be dead.
One day, I couldn't take it anymore, I had just learned the story of my birth and realized I was the reason for my mother's drinking and rages, and that maybe if I were dead, she would stop and everyone else could have peace. After all how could so many people be wrong. I was the scum of the earth and all would be better off without me. All this ran through my mind as I cut lightly on my wrist with a razor blade. It would only hurt for a moment, I convinced myself, and then it would be over. Just as I lifted the razor to make the final deep cut I would need, my oldest brother Terry kicked in the door and stopped me. How he knew what I was doing I'll never know, maybe he was concerned about the length of time I spent in the bathroom, maybe God sent him, I don't know for sure. I did find out in later years that he, too, had once tried suicide, as did all my brother's and sister's at one time in their life. I guess they, too, had been plagued by bad labels. (update on 11-21-2019: I recently brought this up to Terry and he said he never did do that and he had no idea what I was talking about. So was it an angel? I probably won't know until I can ask Jesus in heaven)
When I was in sixth grade my step-sister, Jan, who was already married with four children of her own, gave me a card for my confirmation. In that card she wrote that Jesus loved me so much He died for me.
For me? Someone loved me enough to die for me? I sat for hours on my bed that night and read that card over and over and over again. I cried myself to sleep. About a month later, we were having a service at church called the "Stations of the Cross", where the priest would walk by pictures portraying Jesus life and read from the Scripture's about what happened from the Last Supper to His Resurrection. I stood staring at the giant crucifix that hung over the altar. The artist had done such a wonderful job on showing the expression of pain and suffering. As the
priest spoke and I stared, I began to ask Jesus within myself: How?! How could you go through all that for someone like me? I'm the scum of the earth, everyone says so. How could you love someone like me? I ached so within! It must of been more than I could take because I passed out and came to under the pew with everyone
standing around me.
My teen years in High School began pretty good because I decided, after seeing a home movie of me making a fool out of myself by trying to be like everyone else; that no matter what anyone thought, I knew who I was inside and I
had to answer to God. I was going through life being myself and if people liked it fine and if they didn't fine. I had more friends in High School, then I ever had in my life. Peer pressure wasn't going to work with me anymore.
Life at home continued as usual but the worst was yet to come. At age 13, (update 11-21-2019 I was 60 yrs. old before the memory block left and I now know he was the reason for all my back problems and surgeries from then until now.
I was molested by a so called friend of the family; at age 17, an uncle I trusted like a father attempted even more violently to rape me. I so loved visiting my so called, Aunt and Uncle's farm. His wife was a wonderful women and always kind to us. When we went out of town to visit them, we children were left at their house while our parents went to Daddy's sister's house. It was the only time we were allowed to play and be children. It was my happy place and now he not only tried to defile me but he defiled my happy place. No longer was their anyone I could trust, no longer was their a good place in the world, it was all dark and ugly. No longer did I care what happened to me or what anyone did to me.
I never told anyone for a long time what happened as I did not wish to hurt my aunt and my dad, he was having heart trouble at the time. One day after the memory was successfully hid in the depths of despair, my mother brought up going back! Suddenly his face flashed before me like a flood I couldn't hold back. I could not and would not tell her, but I couldn't go! I had to leave home. My sisters helped me and I moved in with Jan and her family. I later told my mother when she asked me to come back that I had to know more about this Jesus who died for me and who loved me so much. It was through Jan, her husband, Jim, and their children that I learned what a real family was suppose to be like. It was there I needed to be.
As hard as it was on their family they took in this messed up, confused, worn out teenager and showed me Jesus with much patience, sacrificing and prayer of which I will be eternally grateful.
So life got better, right? Oh well, life is a never ending battle. My two years with Jan's family led to my excepting Jesus as my Savior (the best I could understand at the time), and learning what family life was suppose to be. This
gave me the strength I needed to deal with the first seven years of marriage to my husband John.
Johnny was also an alcoholic. Love tends to blind your eyes at first. In short; in those seven years I learned my mother's beatings were nothing compared to what a man can dish out. I lost hands full of hair, I was picked up and thrown from one wall into another, ribs kicked, bloody nose, choked nearly to death, threatened with a knife and shotgun. I learned what true poverty was. I went hungry so my children could eat, during that time I lost my second child. I carried her for eight months and watched her die on my stomach at birth. I was learning new labels from my husband's vocabulary.
Still lied about and laughed at once again by others. I learned how to humble myself time and time again; how to ask for help or groceries. My husband was near an atheist as one could get. He did not trust Christians, nor any religion. God was not allowed in our house but he never could take Him from my heart. No church, no Christian radio, nothing! For those first seven years it was just God and I again. I taught my children about Jesus.
After the first beating God promised me He would save Johnny and He was going to love him through me, (whatever that entailed, I did not understand at the time but along the way I learned the meaning of unconditional love). In those seven years God would not allow me to leave. When I tried, He'd say go back. When God said speak to him, I spoke even if it meant a beating. After seven years John quit drinking and the beatings stopped. Only after God dealt with me about my flaws first, did He start to deal with Johnny about his. Two years later, nine years since God's promise, Johnny gave his life to Jesus in a field while hunting all by himself and then again at church that night. it was the first time in our married life! Now I cried happy tears of joy. God kept his promised and helped me once again. Johnny's salvation led to our children's salvation. My oldest son Michael said that the reason he hadn't accepted Jesus until then was because when he saw his daddy change he knew then that the Jesus I told him about was really real. We have now been married 27 years. This is all another long story cut short, but God has used Johnny's salvation to help many hurting people. (Update: 11-21-2019: We were married 43 years, when John went home to be with Jesus and God blessed us with 8 grandchildren through all 3 of our children and their spouses).
As for my parents? They are both passed away now. My mother died lost, (as far as I know) which is a never ending pain for me. If only I knew the things then that I know now, maybe I could have helped her. She died one week from the first anniversary of my daughters death and one month before the birth of my second daughter, Kelly. My Dad was the only one who saw all 3 of our children: Michael, Kelly and our youngest son, Eric. Alcoholism and cancer killed her. One day she was at my house visiting, two days later she was dead. It was a great shock to me as no one had told me about her condition. After losing my baby I think she wanted it that way. She was afraid of me losing Kelly also. She had lost five of her own, and I have since learned her past held dark secrets for her as well. When sober she was a kind and giving women, her problem--labels and an inability to forgive herself. As for Daddy; He also acquired cancer and about one month before he died, he prayed and accepted Jesus as his Savior. I had an incredible peace when he died, I knew I would see him again.
In closing, their are many children in the world like myself. You can help them by taking the time to look into the container. Teach your children not to use labels on people. It was labels that caused the Jewish Holocaust, Wars, slavery, the deaths of millions. When you see a child who is dirty, maybe they smell, their clothes wrinkled; if a child starts to cry for no reason at all, take the time to find out the underlying cause, you may save a life. There are more programs out there now that can help and some may not be so good, but their wasn't anyone who could help or maybe wouldn't when we were growing up.
Let every child you see know this label; "God Loves You". It can give them the strength to live. Another good label I suggest:
"JESUS SAVES", A label you can trust.
I Samuel 16:7, ...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.