“Who am I, really?” I wish I had asked that of God many years ago.
As a child, I was the weird one. I was the one without a dad. I was the one with off-brand clothes. I was the teacher’s pet. I was the one with acne at ten years old.
As a teenage girl, I was the smart one. I was the one who fit in everywhere and nowhere. I was the one who sought attention. I was the one who rooted for the underdog. I was the one who could do it all but chose to do nothing.
All those descriptions are true, yet none are who I am. I know that now, but it took many years to get rid of the labels—the labels thrown at me by others and the ones I quietly placed on myself.
As each new label was put on, my true identity became more and more hidden. It was hidden behind guilt, embarrassment, shame, and confusion.
I met Jesus when I was nineteen years old. In a wave of unconditional love and unrelenting grace, He claimed me as His. I added “Christian” to my labels that Sunday morning at church, but I didn’t remove any of the labels from my past.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 NIV
I held onto the labels out of comfort. I didn’t like who I had been, but it was all I knew. And there was a part of me that held onto those labels as a reminder: I was unworthy of God’s love, yet He gave it to me anyway.
I held onto my past tightly for fear that I might forget that God loved me. God loved me even though I was a wretched sinner!
But in failing to let go of the labels of my past, I never allowed God to make me new.
“…When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'” John 11:43-44 NIV
I was comfortable in my grave clothes, but God wanted something better for me. He wanted me to take off all the labels, let go of all the shame, and be who He created me to be.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe, like me, you are comfortable in your grave clothes. Or you also wear a lot of labels that don’t really fit who you are anymore, but they’re there nonetheless.
It’s time to let them go. It’s time to become the new creation that God promised through the death and resurrection of His Son.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV
Christ died as the sacrifice for your sins. He rose from death to bring you new life.
The message of reconciliation means that we no longer need to hold onto our old selves. We no longer need to hold onto our past sins. We are made new—made righteous, even! What a hopeful promise.
With our new identity, we are given a new assignment, a new label: ambassador of Jesus Christ.
When we take off the old labels, we can put on the new label. The old labels are heavy, the new label is light. And like I eventually discovered, the new label fits much better than any others.