Day 24 of 31 Things to Teach Your Kids: Teach them to honor their parents.
She was the kind of girl who always said the wrong thing. She tried to claw her way into the popular crowd, in her de-clawed, shy kitten sort of way. It was high school in the early nineties, and we were all just doing the best we could with the very little that we knew about being teenagers. It felt like none of us really had a clue as to what kind of reaction we would get when we opened our mouths to speak, and we continually tested out all of the different ways to be, a petri dish of social experimentation in small town America.
I was no different. Predictably labeled the “goody two-shoes” of the school, I don’t remember being particularly kind or thoughtful. She was new to our school, and when the popular crowd rejected her she turned to me, and I invited her to come to some sort of youth group event with my church. I don’t remember where we went or what else happened that night, but I remember feeling like I was being mean to her. Somehow she was just such an easy target. She kept saying things that were ridiculous. I kept setting her straight. In the back of a dark church van I, the oldest leader of the youth group, sat with a crowd gathered round me while I ungraciously showed everyone all of the ways that a Christian shouldn’t be.
And then, somewhere along the way, on a long Texas road, her expression changed, and she asked me in all sincerity how to become a Christian. Imagine how my heart stopped for a moment while I realized that after my poor treatment of this girl all night long, I was the last person who should be trying to share the gospel with her. I had misrepresented Christ and refused to see this girl through spiritual eyes, and so I stumbled through a weak explanation of how Jesus changes us. I sat there in front of her, changed, knowing that I had acted all night like I never met Jesus before in my life.
And I was crushed.
I was a high schooler. I had so much to learn about Christianity. And even though I don’t remember much about my high school years, this was one of those rare moments when God was dealing with me so closely and so clearly that it cut me all the way to my immature little soul. I loved Him so. Yet, I was only beginning the sometimes painful process of being refined and sanctified by my gracious God. And in His goodness He has never let me forget the way I felt that night in a church van, as the passing interstate lights played across the face of a girl who was turning to me, of all people, for gospel truth.
I hope I have grown since then. But, I often find myself wondering if the woman from the insurance company who has put me on hold (again) could turn to me for the gospel. Am I treating her in a way that wouldn’t make me blush with shame if she asked me about my Jesus? When the fast food restaurant gets half of the order wrong and I am already running late, am I reacting in a way that would make me feel good about proclaiming that I am a child of God? After all of these long years of being molded and changed and taught by the Holy Spirit, I still have a hard time seeing those around me through spiritual eyes. I still fail to remember that they are souls, not just representatives of a company. Not just school teachers. Not just mamas or mechanics or police officers. Not just kids on the playground who aren’t treating one of my babies right. Not just awkward high school girls who always seem to say the wrong thing. Souls, one and all.
Paul said that we need to preach the word, being prepared in season and out of season. Part of that preparation is simply seeing the people around us. Really seeing them as needy sinners like ourselves. How else can we “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”? The simple answer is that we can’t. Not effectively. Not if we are seeing people as nothing more than characters to be dealt with. But if we open our eyes to the spiritual needs around us, it will change the way we treat everyone that we come into contact with. And then we will really be prepared to talk about the gospel at any time.
I don’t know what happened to the girl from the back of the van that night so many years ago. I pray that Jesus rescued her. I’m thankful I can see her face in my mind today, a reminder of how much I still have to learn, twenty-something years later. I’m not ashamed of the gospel, but will I be ashamed of myself when a gospel moment arises?
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2
Originally posted January 2013.
I vividly remember the first day of my freshman year of high school. I grew up in a town of around 1200 people, and my class, from kindergarten to 12th grade, hovered right around 27 or 28 students. So, it was a small school. But, this felt like a big deal.
We were moving from the junior high building to the high school building, and all of the high school students had lockers on the same two halls, classes right next to each other, and lunch at the same time. So, I knew that I would encounter older kids. Cooler kids. And, I was a nervous wreck about it.
My mother took me shopping. We bought a killer first day of school outfit: a long red plaid tunic, black stirrup pants, and black flats with enormous bows. Add to that my big, big hair, virtually no makeup, and braces, and, well, let’s just say that I had it going on. I was feeling confident. I was ready.
My parents forced my older brother to drive me to school, despite the fact that he was, is, and always will be way cooler than me. He drove me there in silence, not much of a morning person, not much of a high school person, not much of a drive your sister around person. Like I said, totally cool.
When we arrived, I was determined to be cool, confident, and aloof. I entered the front doors and looked way, way, way down the hallway to my destination: the freshmen lockers. But, I had to walk through what seemed like enormous crowds of junior and senior boys to get down there. I stuck my nose in the air, trying my best to ignore them in an effort to seem way too cool to pay them any attention. Right as I got to a group of senior boys who were already quietly laughing and talking about my obvious attitude, I hit a slight downward slope on that slick tile floor. My awesome bow-laden flats slipped just a little. Not enough to make me fall down, but definitely enough to make me put my arms out and wave them in a circular motion to try and stay on my feet. I felt like a cartoon character whose feet are going every which way right before she hits the ground. I managed to stay upright, but the arm waving and big eyes and near disaster totally ruined my fake coolness.
To top off that humiliation, when I got down to the freshman lockers, I discovered that another girl in my class was wearing the same long red plaid tunic that I had chosen as my signature first-day-of-high-school look. Only, she was wearing it with an adorable black mini-skirt. And she didn’t have braces or big hair or fake coolness. She had actual coolness. I was crushed. I felt like the world’s biggest moron. Why did I have to make such a bad entrance in the hallway, with my Scooby-doo impression? Why did that girl in my class have to wear my outfit better than I did? I wanted a high school do-over before I even got started.
And, as much I as I can laugh at all that now, the feelings I had on that morning are still so fresh in my mind and heart. Because I feel them all the time. Now. As a grown woman, with a wonderful husband, fun kids, an adorable house, nice clothes, and great friends. I still often feel like the world’s biggest moron. Do you ever feel that way? Like you just got totally shown up by the cool kids?
This is easy to say, difficult to do: We should get our sense of worth from God. Not from our husbands, from our friends, or from the cool kids. He loves us, He created us, and He finds us beautiful. God thinks you’re cool! God would NOT laugh at my slip up in the hallway. Ok, maybe He would get a little chuckle out of that. But, then He would assure me that I don’t need the approval of those senior boys or of anyone else in this world. Because the One who imagined the universe also imagined me and you. And He looks at us and says, “Very good.” He doesn’t despise our crooked noses or our big feet or our extra pounds. He simply loves us. And, He isn’t criticizing the way we do everything. He isn’t looking over our shoulder waiting for us to mess up. He’s cheering for us. He’s helping us. And, most of all, He’s loving us.
God approves! Of you and me! He thinks we’re great even when we feel ignored, criticized, torn down, and shown up by people around us. I bet He even liked my stirrup pants. They WERE pretty cute.