I stood on my tiptoes at the edge of the picnic table. I stretched my arms in front of me and focused on the end of the table like it was a balance beam. I bent my knees slightly, and just before I whipped backward to do a backflip in the air, my dear Dad jokingly said, “Boy, those are some ugly feet you’ve got there. You’d better keep your socks on until after you say, ‘I do’ just so your future husband doesn’t change his mind.”

I love my Dad. After a painful bout with cancer, he passed from this life and into the presence of the Lord. I can’t wait to see him again. My siblings and I often laugh about his sharp sense of humor. No doubt, he loved his kids more than he could ever express. But his harsh joke that day left an imprint on my soul.

To this day, I’m quite self-conscious about my feet. Now, to be fair, my Dad was right. I do have ugly feet. Years of gymnastics mixed with some ugly-feet-genes, and you get gnarly feet that are better hidden under a pair of cute shoes.

A few months after he died, I dreamt about an encounter with my Dad. I stood alone in a park, looked out at the lake when my Dad approached me with purpose and passion. His presence startled me. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Honey, you’re beautiful. Never forget that. I love you. I’ll see you again.”

I stood there, stunned.

Years later, I sat curled up in a ball on a chair, studying scripture, preparing for a speaking event when my eyes stumbled upon this passage:

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
    the news that the God of Israel reigns!

Isaiah 52:7

The Lord whispered to my heart at that moment; Your feet are beautiful to me. You bring the Good News wherever I send you. Feet are beautiful because of their function, not their form. 

I’ve had to overcome plenty of labels, much more painful than this one. But the fact that God would care so much about me that He’d undo what happened that day on the picnic table, well, it took my breath away. God is good like that. He knows which labels have been a reproach to you, which labels still sting or worse yet, wound. And one by one, He beckons you to a place of truth so you can heal.

Recently on Middays, I spoke with Esther Fleece Allen about her beautiful book, Your New Name: Saying Goodbye to the Labels that Limit.” She writes:

People might pin toxic, untrue labels on your back. Life might knock you down. And you might even wrongly label yourself. But God never does.

God has given us a new name. To the weak, He says you’re strong! To the outcast, He says you belong. To the unloved, He says you’re loved. Esther further writes:

When we know our new name, we are remade as we live into the power of that name, and we’re no longer identified by the circumstances we’ve come from. We are made new as we’re re-identified by our relationship to God, and along with that comes a new name.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
Psalm 139:17-18

Tossing old labels

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