Labels, and names, are definitely useful, we couldn’t live without them, but how easy to misunderstand them—or misuse them.
Down the road we have a water meter on the pipe that serves the trough in our field—it says ‘one trough’ on the bill. The meter is a challenge to read, the snails love it, the lid weighs a ton and you need a long arm to reach down the hole and move the soil off the dial. A few weeks ago Anglian Water came to replace it. I was talking to one of the men, he told me that the driver of a lorry delivering some road signs had been driving up and down the road looking for a property called ‘One Trough’. They didn’t actually replace the meter, but that is another story, wait for some traffic lights, maybe.
Remember the sinking feeling when your Christmas present to Aunty re-appears in January retuned to sender and minus the address label? Trouble on the horizon! But when it comes to labelling people, how hard it is to lose a label, a label that glues a person to a certain reputation even if they are trying their hardest to change. It creates a huge lack of freedom, and human beings are designed to be free.
The hymn ‘And can it be . . .’ by Charles Wesley (1707-1788) shows us a way to regain our freedom, or reach the freedom we never had. The verse quoted here is based on the account in the Bible, in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’, of the apostles, who had been jailed for spreading the good news about Jesus’ Resurrection, being set free by the power of God—it’s worth reading the rest of the hymn.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
In our world torn apart with so much suffering we need the power of God—whether we think he exists or not. Be assured that, even when things seem bleak, we at the Abbey continue to pray for the needs of our village and of our world.
Label the weed killer bottle, not your neighbour!