My birthday was two days ago and, as a gift, my mother gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card. This is my standard answer whenever anyone asks me what I want for a holiday or occasion.
Let me pick up a book and I’ll be happy.
I took it over to our local store and got Shoe Dog, a memoir by Phil Knight. Knight founded Nike and turned his idea of importing cheap shoes into a sports empire. I just started the book and Knight talks about his dream of entrepreneurship.
He mentions speaking with his father about needing money to travel the world and chase down the passion that inflamed him existence. He was worried, he writes, because people weren’t stepping out in the late 1960’s. At least his family was not.
They were trapped in the appearance of respectability, surviving, and making enough for the nice house in the quiet neighborhood. To his surprise, Knight’s father gave him the money for the trip.
He was willing to break the power of the label.
One of my strongest influences, Pastor Erwin McManus from Mosaic in Los Angeles, spoke about this is a recent podcast. He stated that we were originally all created on an even playing field. It took the understanding of self to break the equality.
He mentioned the theory that, when babies first notice their reflection, their sense of self is forever altered. They cannot go back. The first mirror humanity ever looked into was the eyes of a snake in the Garden of Eden, he stated. He went on to say:
Every label we make; white, black, conservative, liberal, gay, straight, every single one builds a wall.
These walls push us far away from the original design for creation and lead us ever closer into the arms of grace and love.
We love our labels, though. They are so addicting.
We wear them as badges of honor. They are our possessions. They are our children we push vicariously into territories they never wanted and tell ourselves that we are expanding their horizons. They are our jobs.
They become our paths.
It takes power to break labels and find the depth of what God wants to pour out in our lives. It takes an effort to see people for their souls and not their surface. It takes the touch of God to turn our focus from ourselves and what we can get to others and what we can give.
On that July 4th so long ago, people came together to say they’d had enough. They were ready to do something drastic and find their freedom. This year (I always think of my birthday as the start of a new year) my goal is to do the same, to make big moves and take steps for real and valuable change.
It is time to make a difference, for this world needs difference makers that can help us see past labels, destroy walls, and make things better for all.