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  • Writer's pictureJenni Lien

Labels and God | When God Wants to Rewrite Your Story, Will You Say Yes?

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As humans, sometimes we love labels don’t we? And I’m not just talking about the designer kind. We can put our identity and confidence in labels related to our relationships (wife), status (head of), job (doctor), side hustle (stylist), bank account (gazillionaire) — just a few examples! It’s natural perhaps but what happens when God — who writes the best adventures — shakes things up? Asks us to go from our version of fishermen to travelling preachers? Will we say yes? This week, a testimony and followed by three prayer prompts to seek God about: 1) Are there any labels that we’re chasing because of selfish ambition? 2) What labels does he want us to hold onto in this season? 3) How can we learn to be more loving of the labels God is giving us this season and not compare – either with others or our past or future selves?

Listen to You Are You Christian podcast for women on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Or for my reading-lovers out there (I'm with you!), the transcript is below.

Hi friends! So as I was praying about this episode, I felt God lead me to the topic of labels. Some weeks, I know I’ve been thinking about something in particular and podcast on that. Other weeks it’s a “God, if you want me to release an episode, please give me a topic” type of situation – which was the case this week. Because labels… I guess I have been thinking about and wrestling with this topic a lot these past few months, maybe longer. And I’ve started thinking about why we value labels and when it’s healthy and unhealthy to do so.

So labels! When did I start getting interested in labels?

Honestly, I think it probably grew once I started uni. It was so refreshing to be in a residence full of people who didn’t know your past. They saw you as you were in the present, without any baggage. But it was also intimidating if you didn’t know who you were or who you wanted to be. My solution? I joined a sorority. Then I became an AOII. I became the VP of Standards and Education. I wore the letters and went to convention and leadership training academies. I wanted this worldly label and this association with polished, successful, leader-type women because I wanted it to become my identity.

You probably know what I’m going to say, though. That while these desires aren’t bad, since they weren’t rooted in seeking God at all, my satisfaction with the sorority label was short lived. Once I graduated, I donated all AOII clothing, moved half-way across the world to Singapore and my next reinvention, so to speak, began. I loved being an expat. That felt so glamorous, making it in a super cool new city. I wanted to be a writer, to be associated with creatives, to be super successful. And while this did happen to a degree, again without having it be rooted in God, I was always chasing a new label. Nothing was ever good enough. I found it hard to live in the present because I felt like I had to be more.

Since I left Hong Kong nearly 1.5 years ago, I think I’ve been wrestling with this again but in a much healthier way. When I moved, Hong Kong was a dream come true. I remember this distinct moment on the TST promenade a few years before I moved. I was in the city for a work trip and walked over to the promenade after a meeting and just sat for a while looking at all the skyscrapers and little boxes of light wondering about the people living or working in each one. And I just told God how I’d love to live in Hong Kong one day. It felt a bit impossible but hey, why not share. A while later, my company offered to transfer me and then kicked of seven years of adventure. In some ways, it never felt like a perfect fit but it was also undoubtedly the place where God opened the most doors career-wise and also ignited my spiritual hunger for him.

I arrived in Hong Kong as a wide-eyed publishing professional and budding lifestyle writer. I left as a Publisher for the world’s most prestigious university press, restaurant reviewer for the city’s largest food website, Christian blogger and podcaster, and more. If I ever felt dissatisfied about my life, I could look to these labels and feel secure. Even if I didn’t feel like I was doing great, self, look at these labels – they are dreams come true! Also my wardrobe. Hong Kong is quite a status conscious place, look around everywhere even on the train/subway and you’ll see designer labels – Chanel and Hermes even – on nearly everyone. My wardrobe definitely upgraded while I was there.

Then God made moves and some of these labels went away. I moved back to Canada – no longer an expat. I became a student – no longer a Publisher. Or restaurant reviewer. Still a Christian content creator though! And a new entrepreneur! Accepted into competitive incubator programs! And… but wait.

Here in lies the thing about labels: they change in life and we shouldn’t idolize them. When we give up some, may we not idolize replacing them with ones that look and sound better so we can feel secure. I think it’s natural to always want to go up, do better, and so on. But what that looks like to God isn’t always what it looks like in this world. And even if it is, it’s so dangerous to put our identity in worldly things above God. When God starts to change things, perhaps we’ll see that some things we used to value so much aren’t really that necessary anyway. Most of my designer bags, clothes and jewelry – that I spent so much time researching about and saving for — are now gathering dust.

With this episode, I’m really hoping to encourage and connect with those in a season of life where we feel like God is ripping up the playbook for how we thought things were going to go. Because friend, how exciting! It’s definitely not always comfortable. As I’ve walked in faith in this new expat season in Taipei, working on Pink and New, making new friends, sharing about this stage, it certainly hasn’t always felt comfortable. I’ve felt intimidated and sometimes really nervous and scared. But I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, how amazing it is to have these ‘walk on water’ moments where we put into practice things we know in our heads but maybe have never needed to walk out. We need to trust he will provide – and literally pray and then rest easy knowing he’s heard us and will provide in his perfect way and timing.

Literally last night, I prayed, I asked with thanksgiving a la Philippians 4:6-7, accepted his peace and went to bed. This morning, I prayed about the thing again, gave it to God, moved on with my day. In the past, I’d pray but then still be low-key anxious all the time, in some weird mindset that if God knew how upset I was over it then he’d answer sooner. God is pleased when we believe in him and what he says! He has compassion when we’re struggling but he’s not pleased when we’re hurting because we’re refusing to do what he says – but he’ll help us.

So today, this week, shall we make some time to sit with God and come before him honestly and ask:

Are there any labels that we’re chasing because of selfish ambition? And ask God what he thinks about this desire – how can it be pursued in a healthy way?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

What identity labels does he want us to hold onto in this season? Of course we are children of God, but maybe he wants us to remind us of something specific. That we are forgiven, free, or full of his wisdom, for example.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's. (Romans 12:2)

How can we learn to be more loving of the labels God is giving us this season and not compare – either with others or our past or future selves? Maybe we’re tired of being a student and want to kick-off our career. Or maybe we’re a new mom and miss our corporate girlie days. Some labels will continue to change in life but each season is a blessing, amen?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11)

So Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to come before you, during our quiet times with you and also as we get to share and learn more about you through modern formats like a podcast. You’re so awesome, God. You’ve got so much to teach us and show us,. Help us to release ungodly mindsets and surrender to your ways – they are higher! For everyone listening, I pray this is our freest season yet! Where we are filled with godly courage to pursue you in all ways, shaking off the shackles of worldly mindsets that want to keep us in fear or bondage. We are children of the Most High and we know Jesus paid the price so we could live free and pursue your call on our lives. Help us love you and each other. Help us and give us more opportunities to shine for you in this world, I pray. Most of all help us to LOVE YOU more. In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen.


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