Monday, August 29, 2011

Packaging & Labels

I'm a sucker for packaging. Just ask any of my sisters. If it's in a cute box or interesting bottle or has neat paper or a unique design, I'll probably want to buy it - regardless of what "it" is. If it catches my eye or piques my interest in some way that draws me, and I have enough money, I'll get it. Sometimes it's a bar of soap, other times it's a handmade card. It could be lip gloss, soda pop, shoes or a scarf.

Have you ever gone into some restaurant with amazing-looking desserts - piled high with whipped cream and berries or mounds of chocolate gooey-ness? Your mouth waters in anticipation of the delightful deliciousness melting in your mouth. How often does it taste as wonderful as it looks? Personally, I'm often disappointed.

I've had lots jobs, lived in lots of places and met lots of interesting people. I'm learning to not be so taken by someone's "packaging" or their "labels". One job I've had was as a driver for a company that transported "special needs" students, some elderly individuals and various others who needed transportation. Two of my regular riders were labeled as "special needs" and I would transport them to and from school. One was clearly on the autistic spectrum (but really, who among us isn't). I was told he was non-verbal, severely autistic and rarely responded without being talked to like one would command a dog. The other seemed as "normal" as any junior in high school. I was honestly confused by how the latter earned the label. Each of them taught me not to judge anyone by their labels or their packages. My non-verbal, severely autistic rider actually spoke to me on several occasions. We'd sing songs and joke and laugh - and I never had to speak to him like I would command a dog. My other regular rider missed a lot of school. He was very articulate and thoughtful and sweet.

They made me think about how I label others and how I, myself, have been labeled. They made me think about what I say about others and myself - which made me remember Proverbs 18:20 & 21, "A man's [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil]. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]."

Do we simply accept and live up to (or down to) the labels we've been given (or given ourselves)? Do we put on a good front (does our packaging genuinely reflect our true selves)? Have we been told we're not enough or too much or not qualified or too qualified so often and for so long that we begin to believe it - and not only believe it, but confess it, accept it, and allow it to be a creative, prophetic force in our lives?

Psalm 139 tells us that God intricately formed each one of us in our mothers' womb. He knit us together "as if embroidered with various colors". (Amplified) He took time to design and craft each of us with specific attention to detail. Each one of us is a masterpiece reflecting His image. He does not label us by our hair color, race, nation of origin, denominational affiliation, political party, vocation, income or education. He only labels us as His - if we choose to be His.

Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by the simplest packaging. A box with plain, brown-bag looking paper and a simple twine bow may hold the most astounding contents. And a non-verbal, severely autistic young man may just blurt out "E-I-E-I-O" from the back of the van as you're driving him home.

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