I hate middle school. I hated it when I was a student, and I hate it with an equal passion as a parent of a middle school student. All that soul searching done in a place where everyone is sure that the best version of themselves looks nothing like the current version of themselves. So begins the desperate attempt to find oneself that ultimately leads to so many kids losing themselves and living for many years afterward as someone they hardly know.
I guess I had forgotten how awful it was until confronted with the ugly truth once again as I tucked my daughter into bed. It was real talk time, where we take off the masks and really share our hearts. Little did I know that Satan’s arrows had been leveled at her and found their mark. My beautiful daughter, who recently made cheer captain, will soon be inducted into the National Junior Honor Society and has a host of other achievements to her credit, has been silently battling insecurity because so many people tell her she’s loud, her voice is squeaky, her laugh is weird, and a host of other things that make her suddenly quiet, reserved and afraid to express the joy in her heart.
Let me just say, I was dumbfounded. All of those things she suddenly is ashamed of came directly from me! I bellowed, “You’re loud because I’m loud!” She gave me a weak smile.
“Your voice is seriously just like mine. And that laugh … that’s good stuff. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You take after your momma and you adore me!”
Ok, so maybe I’m not all that humble, but I know she does, so … real talk.
She was still really upset about it all, and apparently knowing she got it all from me didn’t really help her to feel better. So I leveled with her. If ever I have prophesied to my children, I did tonight. I leaned over her bed, looked her straight in the eyes and said, ‘Listen here, my love. God has never stood up and faced humanity to apologize for you. He has never said, “Um … sorry, world, for this girl here. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was really feeling it that night, you know, but now … Gosh, I’m so sorry.’ No! He is smiling over you. He loves you. He is proud of the masterpiece He has created. He loves your loud mouth, your masterful way of making others smile. The way you laugh and the funny faces you make to have fun. He loves every part of who He created you to be and He is not repenting of it. So you should be you, unrepentantly. One day, you’re going to rock the world with everything about you that makes you uniquely fit for the purpose God created you for. Don’t try to remake yourself, because you are a special design to carry out a specific work. If God isn’t apologizing, neither should you. Be you unrepentantly!”
I then gave my daughter the best piece of practical advice. I told her to be frank with people. To tell people, with a serious face so they know she is serious, that when they say those things, they are hurting her. Her real friends will take that to heart and quit. The riffraff will take care of themselves by taking a hike. And who needs ‘em? Let them go! Maybe this doesn’t sound too PC but I don’t care. Frankly, I am tired of the façades. I am tired of masking reality to save face for others. I like real talk and I want my kids to like it too. It’s liberating. “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Being real is inviting freedom into relationships and individual hearts. I hope that when the moment arises, she will clearly recognize her own value and not suppress the truth for someone who doesn’t.
Finally, we prayed together and she whispered, as I kissed her goodnight, “My heart is smiling.”
I hope this truth finds lodging in the hearts of middle schoolers everywhere … no matter how old they are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!