It's funny how the Lord brings back memories to drive home a point, you know? All day long, I've been talking to Him about acceptance, and how that one little thing can make people do crazy things. I have been observing people around me, and how their striving for acceptance can sometimes make them lose sight of the world around them. I've seen myself doing it in ways that I'm not proud of. So I was asking the Lord why it is that we humans strive so much for acceptance, while sometimes stepping on others to gain it. It was quiet all day though. Maybe I was distracted.
Until I started washing my face tonight, and I was reminded of a mother/ daughter moment from Jr. High. I know you probably won't believe this unless you were friends with me back then, but I struggled a lot in the 8th grade. It just wasn't my year. I was awkward, uncomfortable with myself, slow to the good comebacks I'm now a little too privy of, and people made fun of me. I was living in a single parent home with a mother who was literally working herself to the bone while also trying to attend every single extra-curricular event my brother and I were involved in. I was extra sensitive, something I had developed in early childhood. I can remember as a child when someone in my life asked me if I was going to cry every time someone looked at me the wrong way. The answer was yes, and I knew it. I didn't want people to look at me the wrong way. My whole life revolved around doing everything I could to make people look at me the right way. But nothing I did in 8th grade made it any better. It was the only year in my entire life that I uttered the words, "I never want to go back to school there again."
My mom developed a ritual that year that I had completely forgotten about until the Lord reminded me of it tonight. She would get out the little jar of Noxema, we would cover our faces with it, and watch tv in her bed until we could no longer stand the stinging and we'd wash it off. It was something she had done with her mother, and she was passing along the tradition. The time of sting allowance gradually increased, as these moments became some of the best conversations I had with my mother growing up. We still have great conversations, but something about the Noxema drew out more than just the dirt in my pores.
I eventually made it through the awkward year, and turned into the supermodel you all know and love. (cough cough- couldn't help myself) I realized tonight that the awkward year, while I unsuccessfully strived for acceptance, helped me to become who I am today. Not only was I striving for acceptance that year, but there were others who were trying just as hard to be accepted, while keeping the spotlight on me so that it wouldn't show their awkwardness too. Sometimes we think that this is just a kids game, that junior high is the only place for such nonsense. I'm here to tell you that it's very much alive in our workplaces, homes, and churches too. There will always be a boss, and there will always be employees trying to show how great they are at the expense of others. There will always be that one family member who's easy to make fun of. There will always be cliques at work or at church, because we all want to be accepted. The problem remains that there will be that little 8th grade girl in all of us who will eventually get stepped on, or made fun of, or brushed aside... and no one will notice...
Except for the people who choose to build others up; the ones who pull out the jar of Noxema and make that trampled little one feel like they do have something to contribute, that they're beautiful and valuable. Look at how Jesus treated the least of these... THIS is our calling.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11