I remember being you very vividly. I remember taking at least 30 minutes in the morning to choose an outfit, and then end up wearing a “safe” choice anyway.
I remember the shallow lunch conversations, and the anxiety that came with the 10:30 AM break where everyone huddled in circles, and I wasn’t sure that I would be included today, and I was afraid that trying to include the outsider would leave me lonely.
I remember wanting so desperately to talk about this Jesus with my friends, but not so sure how to start the conversation, not so sure if the conversation was even welcomed.
And finally, I remember when my life was turned around. When I decided that I was done buying into the lie of exclusion and empty conversation, and Christ equipped me with the courage to include the outsiders. When God took me by the hand and showed me how to love those that were deemed “unloveable.” When I finally took a risk, and being the goober that I am, wrote a letter to two friends telling them that I wanted to talk about God and pray with them, praying that they would feel the same way.
God was faithful, and when I look back at October of eighth grade, nothing but the image of fireworks goes off in my mind. I was not alone. Those friends did care about Christ, and they did desire deeper relationships. Those connections were out there all along, and I had just never trusted Christ’s goodness enough to believe that He would really provide something so rich. I’d adventured upon communion with Christ and others like I’d never known was possible.
I know junior high seems so paralyzing sometimes, that it’s a competition of who’s the least awkward and the most prom-queen like. Chances are you aren’t the cheerleader or jock and even if you are, you feel this constant nagging to fit-in, be known, be loved. This nagging feeling that if you even talk to the weird kid that you might end up on the outside. This unspoken but evident dread of going to a basketball game and not being a cheerleader or the all-star. This unspoken expectation that (if you live in the Bible Belt), you can’t deny Christ, but you certainly can’t talk about Him openly either.
Middle schooler, He made you for more than this. Those deep connections and deep friendships that you long for are out there, and you are not alone in that longing. He didn’t leave us in this world alone. There are such things as rich, genuine relationships. He made you to put down your pride, embrace the outsider, invite the uninvited, unite yourself with others, and realize Christ laid down His position for the sake of others.
It’s going to be uncomfortable, but sometimes it just takes twenty seconds of courage, and it’s undoubtedly worth it. It’s worth the communion He promises.
And middle schooler, you might not be happy to hear it, but you must know:
The reason I remember being you so vividly is because I still catch glimpses of you in myself and those around me each day.
This insecurity and unsettled heart won’t end in this life. Many will just become more deceiving with their exclusions. They will sneak gossip into supposedly “deep” conversations to make themselves look better, casualize lust in “boy talk” or “girl talk” in the name of romance, and praise the Christian culture while denying Christ’s teachings with their lives. And you will probably catch yourself believing, even participating these things for a moment.
But stop yourself and do not give into this self-serving culture. Forget your pride, and include and love others with no hesitation. Humble yourself, and seek to understand those that feel excluded. Pray for the excluders, knowing that the only thing that separates you and them is knowing Jesus.
There is light at the end of this tunnel you now call junior high, but you eventually will call life.
In the midst of temptation and this new awkward mess of society, remember His promise to us: this life will pass– and all that remains at the end is what was done for Him.
Each time you choose Him over this world, He will grow in you, and community will grow around you.
And you’ll begin to realize this one truth that will anchor your soul for the rest of your days:
You were never really alone to begin with.
A grown-up middle schooler
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.“
– Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV, emphasis mine)