MORE THAN PERVERT, CHEATER, OR HYPOCRITE

By Joe Burnham: A year ago today, I didn’t wake up in the morning like I normally do.  Rather, I was led from a holding cell where I’d sat awake all night, handed an envelope containing my keys and wallet, and ushered out the exit of a jailhouse.

I met the cold morning air unsure of what part of town I was in, and not really caring because I knew that, as soon as I returned home, I’d be labeled for life and things would never be the same.

Pervert. That night before, I was arrested in a prostitution sting.

Cheater. I was married at the time.

Hypocrite. I was a pastor.That last one was probably the worst of all, because of all the people I let down.

Believing labels that had haunted me my entire life (“undesirable,” “just a friend,” “not worth her best”) had fueled a desperate quest for anything to counter their lies ... and it ruined my life.

I wish I could take back the damage done to my Church’s reputation. I wish I could heal the pain caused to friends and family. I pray that my ex-wife finds the dream she lost. And I hurt for my 5-year old son, who’s still trying to sort out why mommy and daddy don’t live together anymore.

At the same time, my life being ripped apart has fueled another quest, one where I’ve learned a lot about myself – and labels.  Because of this ugliness, I found a community of people who were bold enough to declare that the labels, both new and old, lie. In the place of labels, they invited me to fully embrace my identity in Christ.

Slowly, the old labels that tormented me for years faded. And without the old labels, the new ones lost their significance.  I've begun to believe that I am who Christ says I am.  I’m learning to accept an identity that never lies. I am ...

Chosen.  Adopted. Beloved. Valuable.  Wanted.

Labels lie.  My identity in Christ is who I really am.

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