It's that time of the month again, that time when it's time for someone else to write your blog! Guest blogger time! This is my friend, Jonathan. He teaches English in the magical far away land of China. He's also smart and wonderful. However, unlike my guest blogger last year, this won't be a story of a love affair with Ke$ha. It's kind of a novel. Be kind to him.
There are some things that people should never outgrow, like candy, Disney films (yes, I deem them films, not mere movies), a sense of awe and wonder when hearing about miracles, and wonderment at small things like how tiny babies hands are (hmm...that is a misuse and proper use of "small things." It stays!) and rolling down hills of green grass. I can't imagine any purer joy than rolling down a massive hill while eating Lemonheads and, when you finally stop at the bottom, pretending that you are Timon and Pumba looking up at the stars, leaving massive body prints in the uncut grass, and trying to grasp how amazing it must have been to see stars be formed. Try and top that. I dare you. (We are talking childlike joy, so coffee is out!)
That being said, there are some things that I am convinced people in this day and age really do need to outgrow. Among many others: Crocs anywhere but the garden, wearing children's clothing sizes when you obviously aren't a child anymore, and picking noses.
But, even more than all of these things, I think we all need to get together and decide to just collectively outgrow labels.
Labels were very useful as children. Parents could deem some people strangers and you knew not to accept candy or rides from them. They could declare some foods "unhealthy" and you knew that, even though they taste like heaven, they must be hell. They could say that some of your friends were bad influences and you knew that your parents could no longer see you talking to them. But, the problem came in when those labels were woefully arbitrary. Case and point, when you were at a party and a "friend of your mom" came up to you and offered you cake. Inner conflict set in. "Don't talk to strangers and definitely don't take food from them. But, this kind woman says she is a friend of my mom. What's more, she's offering me cake when I've already had one piece. Even though I want it (duh!), it's unhealthy. But an adult who claims to be acting on mom's behalf has offered! What to do?" (Too stilted, you say? Perhaps.) The point is, the labels were only helpful to an extent.
We, being creatures that are built by HIM to love laws and rules, then took this principle of labeling and took it too far. Suddenly, everything urgently needs a label so that we know where to file it. Sometimes this can be acceptable because it has no negative ramifications. Nothing bad happens when I try cow stomach and instantly decide "This is not my cup of tea and I would prefer it to keep a safe distance from my plate." But when it comes to people, I can't help but wonder if we chronically let labels interfere with what could be a promising friendship. As a Follower, my original Adam, whose first responsibility was to name (label?) all the animals, needs answers. "Is this person good or bad? Quickly, I need to know right away so I know how to treat them! I don't want to be tempted or, (Forbid it!) labeled as someone who associates with 'those' people!" Now, our habit of labeling has taken a terrible turn. It has gone from helpful and categorical to forgetting the mantra of life: "Serve HIM and love your neighbor." Insert guilty head-bow of shame here.
As if this wasn't bad enough, I'm afraid it doesn't stop there. Not only do we start to label others by trivial things like what they wear, how they talk, where they are from, or what they have done in the past, but we also start to try to alter our own labels. We want to be seen as cool, unique, or trendy. But really, through it all, you find yourself starting to lose who you really are.
You aren't a label.
You define the labels.
When it comes down to it, it's pretty degrading to try and reduce a beautiful human being, a precious creation, down to a few words. I love words, but, I'm sorry, they limp when they try to describe people. People are complex, changeable, multifaceted. A word is just that, one word. One definition. One connotation. On the first day of an interpersonal communication class that I took, the prof asked us to say who we were. People tried to use their names, they tried to use adjectives, they tried to use things they liked. He rejected each of them. I loved that. You are more than that. You are all of that at one time and more, because you are loved by HIM.
Sometimes I imagine heaven as a place where, outside the gates, there are trash cans. Mountains and mountains of trash cans. Inside, there are all of those awkward "Hello! My name is:_________" stickers. Just piles on top of clumps of them, because, in order to enter, you have denied everything that you think about what you are in order to accept who you really are. You are HIS.
This turned massively spiritual. That's a habit of mine. I'm not convinced its a bad one, though. When it comes down to it, labeling is something that I just recently have begun to notice, both in myself and others. I think, collectively we need to cast it off. We need to rip off our name tags and rip off everyone else's. We need to stop trying to fit these massive creations into tiny slots. People are better than that. We are more than that. We only cheat ourselves out of relationships, opportunities, and happiness when we apply and chase after these labels.
So, I'm going to do my best to take a page from the Big Guy. When his children asked, "Who are you?" he replied with a name that simply meant, "Walk with me. Take it all in. Then, and only then, you will know." How beautiful.
With that, I think I'm going to head out for a walk. Walk with me? I'm not sure how things will go, but I can promise there will be Lemonheads, talk of animated characters, and a grassy hill!