When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high
Determined I would rise above the shame
But no matter where I’m living, the black mark follows me
I’m branded with a number on my name
I’d like to hold my head up and be proud of who I am
But they won’t let my secret go untold
I paid the debt I owed them, but they’re still not satisfied,
Now, I’m a branded man, out in the cold
The above lyrics, the reflections of a former prisoner, were taken off a hit-song recorded by Country star Merle Haggard, titled ‘Branded Man’. Merle certainly knew what it was like to be a ‘Branded Man’, since he spent time in prison, including the dreaded San Quentin Prison.
I don’t know what it is about humans, but we seem to thrive on placing ‘brands’ on people.
We hear terms like loser, failure, cheat, addict, gossip, prison bird, fat, ugly and more being used on people. Partners use insulting names on each other, with much regret later. And, parents sometimes use brands like fool, idiot and stupid on their children, snuffing out the light inside them in the process. Sadly, many times we accept the branding put on us by others and live our lives believing that lie!
Here are some challenges I went through in my personal life:
- I was very sick and a chronic asthmatic for most of my childhood and teenage years. In our society, I’m sure some people would have branded me as a child who has brought bad luck to the family. Thankfully, my parents didn’t think so.
- I struggled with exams in my schooling days and many times, either my parents or I were at the receiving end of branding (jokes cracked), about such failures.
- I married late in life and sometimes had to hear unkind remarks people made in fun over this; especially at weddings. Believe me, it wasn’t funny!
The good news however, is that whatever people say or think of us, what really matters is what God thinks of us. Thankfully, the scriptures show us time and time again that God never brands us, but instead, places great value on us. So much value in fact, that He gave His only Son, The Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us as individuals. The Bible also says that God knows us by name, our real name, and not the branded names others have placed on us. Here are some powerful scriptures.
“You (God) knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13)
“I (God) have summoned you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1)
“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14)
“You will forget the shame of your youth” (Isaiah 54:4)
“I have called you friends” (said by Jesus in John 15:15)
“Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God”. (John 1:12)
Yes, in Jesus, you are a child of God! So, today, stop believing the names others have branded you with and believe the truth of what God thinks of you. It will change your entire outlook on life and give you new courage to fulfill your God-given destiny!
Illustration – There is a story of a man who was caught stealing sheep and was branded with the letters ST (sheep thief) on his forehead. It was a stigma he would carry for the rest of his life. However, the man turned it around by living a godly and fulfilled life, so much so that in his later years, the same letters, ST (sheep thief), were considered to stand for ‘Saint’!
Coming back to some of the examples given earlier, Merle Haggard the prisoner was pardoned by the then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, later to become President Reagan, and never looked back. He went on to become a legend in Country Music!
As for me and the 3 personal examples shared earlier, by the grace of God alone,
- He healed me of all my childhood sickness and gave me a purpose to live for.
- I overcame my failures and God has helped me to impact lives in amazing ways, way more than I could have ever imagined. He has blessed my work as a Pastor, Preacher and Radio Broadcaster.
- He blessed me with a lovely wife and two wonderful sons. (See ‘About’ page on this blog)
The book of Philemon in the New Testament, tells the story of how the Apostle Paul mentored a runaway slave named Onesimus (meaning usefull), who was now branded as ‘useless’. In verse 11, Paul tells Onesimus’ former master Philemon, “Formerly he (Onesimus) was useless to you, but now he has become USEFUL both to you and to me”. That’s how God removes our insults!
So, once again I say, don’t accept the brands people place on you. Instead, live for God’s glory and be amazed by what Jesus will do in and through you! He places great value on you!!
Question – Has someone branded you? Have you overcome it? How? I would love to hear your comments in the section given below.