Bless Her Heart: Code Words and Torn Labels

Here in the South, we love sweet tea and cornbread, family and friends, pickup trucks and fishing. Walmart cashiers call their customers “Sweetie” and “Honey”. Deer hunting and frog gigging is a thing. Some schools even shut down for the opening day of deer season. Shopping carts are buggies and all sodas are called “Cokes”. Yes, it’s a whole other culture. Where else could you get by with saying, “This is so good, it makes me wanna slap my Momma!”?

We have several code words and phrases that sound like one thing but are actually another. The most popular among these phrases is the notorious “Bless her heart.” Transplants to our vibrant South may think it’s an endearment. Usually, it’s not.

“Bless her heart” is another way of calling someone an idiot.

bless her heart

It’s a sweet-sounding way of saying it, but Southerners can sense the sting behind the sugar. It’s a gentle way of labeling someone who doesn’t quite have it together.

Labels aren’t unique to the South. Indeed, they even affect our churches. In ‘Christianese’, having a “servant’s heart” means you get a lot of menial tasks dumped on your tired shoulders. For some, the label of having a “servant’s heart” is much less oppressive than being labeled “difficult” so they serve even when they don’t feel led to. There seems to be two types of servants: the joyful and the secretly resentful.

There are other labels, less positive ones. Labels that others have given us or we’ve had shoved down our throats for so long, we’ve begun to believe them and consequently, think our worth is determined by them. Divorced. Unwanted. Victim. Black Sheep. Alcoholic. Depressed. Never Good Enough. Failure.

Aren’t you glad that when we’re redeemed, God doesn’t see us through the labels others, or even ourselves have affixed to our person like a bad advertisement? He doesn’t see Failure, or Unlovable or Disappointment but looks beyond the crumbling, torn paper wrapping. He sees a treasure His Son died to save. He doesn’t call you Divorced or Alcoholic. Instead, the Father calls you Beautiful. My son. My daughter. Royalty. Loved beyond comprehension.

Beware of labels. Speak life. Your worth is not determined by your successes or failures. It rests in the pierced hands of Jesus. He knows your faults and shames and yet loves you beyond measure anyways.

Bless your heart.


Sour Fruit

I’ve had a week. I mean, one of those weeks.

A hormonal, pre-teen, an almost two year old who made it his mission in life to scream through every square inch of Walmart when he saw the M&Ms, homeschooling frustrations, recuperating from illness, looming deadlines and a string of speaking engagements to prepare for. Worst of all, no chocolate. Yes, this past week I was Allyson from Mom’s Night Out.

Despite, having one of those weeks, I was determined to stay close to Jesus. I made it a priority to saturate each morning with Bible study and prayer. And finally, finally we had an afternoon where the frazzle eased into a measure of calm.

With the children happily playing, I sat down to study the fruits of the Spirit for an upcoming retreat I’ve been asked to speak at.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”

Love. That’s the hinge that it all hangs on, I thought. 1 Corinthians 13 is the perfect place to go. Just as I started to flip through the thin pages, blood-curdling shrieks exploded as all three kids came tearing into my office, covered in marker smears, dog barking on their heels, and leaving a string of crushed crackers in their wake.

My last nerve finally snapped. Turning away from my Bible, I yelled, “Hey! Knock! It! Off! I’m trying to study the fruits of the Spirit over here! What’s wrong with you?” In the blink of an eye, I transformed from Beth Moore to Frankie Heck from The Middle.


I glanced back down at my Bible, huffing in frustration, to see the convicting words from 1 Corinthians 13 staring back at me: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…”

I blinked once, twice then burst out laughing. God caught my attention. The very fruits I was determined to master turned out to be a bit sour when dealing with the day to day stuff that makes up life. Oh, we try to do right but still end up missing the point. Sometimes our fruit is there but it’s a little sour, a little mushy, a little bruised. Why?

I sat back in my chair and blew out a long breath. I had gotten so caught up in the stress of the past week, my time with God had become nothing more than a check on my to-do list. I was reading His Word but wasn’t allowing it to change me.

That afternoon, as the little tornadoes’ shrieks of mirth died away, He pressed these simple words into my soul. Just sit at my feet, little one. Listen. Rest. I love you and my burden is light. Learn of Me.”

How many of us are consumed with the world’s battle cry to do more, achieve more, ‘be your best you’, accomplish, succeed? Yet the voice of Jesus says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

For this day, throw out your to-do list. Push away all thoughts of guilt, all voices screaming that you need to give more and just sit at the feet of Jesus. At His feet, there is joy, abundance, serenity and peace…and that exhausting list of ‘to-dos’ loses it’s iron-clad grip.

My fruit is a lot less sour when I do.