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.
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.