labels: what’s in a name?

the more i think about it, the less i realize i know who i am.

see, i have always thought myself unique, slightly strange, definitely my own person, and 100% authentic. what you see is what you get. yet, more and more these days, i have individuals come up and tell me that they’ve met “my double.” not necessarily in looks, but in personality, mannerisms, even inasmuch as my slight lisp and strange way of pronouncing things. (the “trash” thing is sooo over, guys.) does that mean i am not my own anymore, or are there characteristics about me that are evident in the lives of others, creating a strange connection across the airwaves, bonding us together in some sort of human existence across the miles?

if i took a deep, long look into who i am, i realize that the person i am today is not the one i began as, almost 25 years ago. physically, i have grown into a tall, slightly clumsy, overly-dramatic individual. mentally, well, the maturity thing is still out, but at least i made it through grad school! and emotionally, well, i’d like to think i’ve learned to not wear my heart on my sleeve…as much. but there are still things that remain quite the same about me, that will forever label and define me.

first, my nameChrista. the name originates from Latin, as a shortened form of Christina, simply meaning “follower of Christ.” my parents named me after a dear family friend, but perhaps, as in biblical times, the name not only gives me a moniker in life, but essentially has been revealing my destiny. this name, spelled and misspelled countless ways, has always opened conversations and has repeatedly taught me patience (“No, my name did not grow an extra syllable; it’s just Christa”). yet perhaps, my name has directed and defined a deeper part of me, and has guided me through the rocky paths of life. but it’s not the only part that continues to define who i am today.

secondly, my past. everyone has one, but no one else has my past. glancing back, i’ve led a deeply blessed life, full of joy, wonderment, opportunity, and love. yet, you can’t see all the rosy colors without noticing the blackness that is outlined in the cracks, the patches, and the dusty corners that the Lord continues to mend and clean. my past does not define who i am today, but rather has played an key role in refining who i have become today. i wholeheartedly believe in the difference.

today’s lesson from P-Dave (that’s Pastor Dave to you, not-as-tight-with-PDave-as-me, folks) spoke on the humanity of Christ. how He suffered every human emotion and experience; how labels impacted His life as much as ours. how labels can essentially destroy our hope, or can spark a change that radically alters our destiny. traveling around the internet these days is a beautiful emerging project of taking back what has been stolen from us, in the form of identity through the power of spoken word. The project, called 

reminds us of our two choices when it comes to being labeled: 1) We can allow them to define our current day and our futures lives, or 2) we can choose to embrace the power in saying “NO, I will NOT be defined by human definitions and flawed opinions.”

i believe that the power that raised Christ from the grave, that brings hope to the hopeless, and that doesn’t simply allow us to exist but rather empowers us to embrace, is the same power that has broken the chains of the labels that i have been listening to for years. i lucked out. i never had to endure the daily jeers and mocking tones from my peers; never had to face down a label given to me by anyone other than my teasing, but well-meaning friends. no, the labels i have battled with stem from a much darker, and deeper place inside me — my own insecurities, prompted by self-doubt and whispered to me at the lowest of times by the darkness and by his workers.

fat. ugly. talentless. unloved. unpopular. liar. judger. worthless. these labels have held me captive for years; reminding me of my humanity but covering the fact that it is in my humanity that Christ is necessary, and thrives. the labels sought to define me and destroy me, until one day back in 8th grade, i realized that labels are simply words. they are not men with guns, or earthquakes with raw, untamed power, or even my own hands with a sharp razor. they are simply spoken, and just as easily can be forgotten. that day has radically altered my journey in realizing what is in my name.

i still get labeled. still get called the wrong name. still sometimes listen to the darkness that i am still battling within myself. but i chose that day to not allow the labels to choose my destiny. because, before i was born, my destiny was already set aside, intricately planned moment by moment for the glory of Christ. that, even in my name, who i am about is revealed. my deepest desire is to live out my name — to be seen not as Christa, but to be seen as a “follower of Christ,” and that is one label, that i don’t mind having.

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.‘” — Isaiah 43:1

surprised by joy.

when i least expect it, God infiltrates my wall of defense and reminds me of His goodness.

the beauty of this action is that, in some respects, i should not be surprised. He distinctly reveals His character again and again throughout time, stays true to His covenants, and does not change from who He is; and yet, at the same time, the fact that He cares enough to break through my barriers and loves me enough to remind me in an overwhelming flood is utterly mind blowing.

for me, it’s easy to believe that God is a just God; that He loves us enough to send His only Son so that we may have a hope; and that His power will triumph on that glorious day…but sometimes, i struggle to believe in His goodness. that, in a world filled with broken families, destruction of heart and home, trafficking of humans as if they were less than property, and children starving to their last breath…there is still a God who is good.

He is. He still is. and He reminds me of this through the smallest of things.

i’m reading C.S.Lewis at the moment, his memoir “Surprised by Joy.” i have an unashamed obsession with the wisdom that God has passed through this man — he has written my favorite books, pierced my heart with his journey to faith, and continues to ask the questions that my heart has failed to form into words, but have been longing for the asking. i’m pretty sure Clive and i would have been besties, because i feel everything he writes is a letter from my soul…except he does it so much more profoundly and in a lovely British accent. He writes of his first account of being surprised by joy and God’s goodness — maybe without the realization of what was the source, but still a life altering event.

“the first is itself the memory of the memory…it is difficult to find the words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even for my own past — before i knew what i desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse of withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison…there is a quality of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable that any other satisfaction. I call it Joy…i doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”

i believe that being surprised by Joy is the business of Christ. that his very being radiates this mystery, this longing, and creates that vacuum that nothing else in my life will fill. when i, in a rare and blessed moment, realize that God is indeed, good — my heart swells and i realize that something else beyond me is infiltrating my being.

these past few weeks have been craY craY. and yet, i have had more moments of Joy — mere glimpses of life beyond this, as if the veil was lifted for a peek, and then settled back into position. i believe that God is in the business of Joy, of blessing, and of Goodness — and these crazy times have only strengthened that belief, not eroded it into bitterness and anger.

i anticipate much more joy on the way. it’s just being willing to look for it, with eyes open, heart wide, and spirit willing.

pura vida.