This post is to the mentally handicapped middle school girl that I chased around in the playground many years ago.
Dear Rita, (not her real name)
I am so sorry.
I could up offer a lengthy list of flimsy excuses but honestly they don't matter. I hurt you and that was wrong and I knew it. I deeply regret my actions. I called you mean, embarrassing names in an effort to disguise my own pain and awkwardness. I.am.sorry.
As a mother, I have told my children about victorious moments when they would have been proud of me. I like to tell them about the times when I stuck up for the little guy, the weird kid or the janitor my classmates teased and threw pennies at in the cafeteria. Those stories make me look good.
But I have also confessed a few shameful times when I mocked an innocent person, betrayed a confidence, acted like a hypocrite. The incident with Rita is one of those tormenting times that I have tried to use for good while instructing my own OS. At a coffee shop last year, I told my precious middle OS about some experiences I went through in the hopes that he will never follow in some of my footsteps. It was strange to ask Aaron to forgive me for things I did before he was even born but the sweetest sounds came from his deep voice at the Caribou Coffee which is now my favorite place of redemption and caffeine. "Oh, Mama, I forgive you," as he clutched his hand in mine.
Last night was the last meeting for Teen Community Bible Study (Teen CBS). We have spent over 30 weeks with middle and high school youth and I have had the pleasure of working with 6th-8th grade girls. We have studied God's Word, reviewed lessons and enjoyed getting to know each other. Each one of the girls has a permanent place in my heart. Spending time with these girls made me fondly recall the girls I met while on a mission trip to Lima, Peru. Though that was several years ago, I still keep in touch with many of them. Witnessing young people grow in their faith is a privilege, seeing them burgeon into adulthood a lovely site to behold.
But is there anything harder than adolescence? Seriously! Take a good look at the corresponding picture of me if you don't agree! I'm the one with the hexagonal glasses...;0 So much going on, inside and outside, not a moment of rest or tranquility, something always seems to be happening. If it's not your body, it's your feelings. If it's not you, then it's your family and friends! Teenager-hood is like the cruelest and most vulnerable time of life! Perhaps that's why I have such a soft place for middle schoolers. They flutter with awkwardness and potential.
Oh how my heart ached as some of the students held the microphone and openly shared. We heard good things and triumphant discoveries about how much Jesus loves us. A common theme was how before coming to Teen CBS, many kids were just acting like Christians, going through the motions.
We heard about ongoing struggles with depression, serious family illness, divorce and loneliness. And the room grew hushed as one girl took a deep breath and began to tell her story. She told the crowd of adults and peers how she doesn't have very many friends. Tears streamed from her little face and she began to sob. I think I even saw a few boys getting choked up hearing and empathizing with her pain. It was deeply moving to sense that we all began looking inward pondering our own sins, pains and regrets.
But then, mere minutes later, a girl took the microphone and without a hint of selfishness or worry about what anyone would think, she openly apologized to that girl for not treating her as she should. The two embraced and wept. The spirit of the Lord was upon this place. Grace and mercy, forgiveness and love abounded. Oh if you could have been there...
The cleansing that occurs when we confess our sins to the Lord and to others is like nothing else in this world. I am free from those chains that bound me for so long. I can admit my mistreatment of Rita because of Christ and what He has done in my life. In fact, I can tell my children and anyone in the blogosphere of my regrets because they have been forgiven. Being a teenager was brutal, hallelujah, I will never have to relive those days. Now thanks to the Lord, I am a new creation. I try to help others navigate that treacherous season of life by pointing them to Jesus.