Adolescence reaches further into childhood than it did twenty years, and spans further into adulthood as well. For me, childhood remained delightful, even idyllic at times and once I hit the streets of my college, I recaptured that zeal and hope, but the quaking, quivering in-between ages held little appeal to me. They weren’t nearly as tragic as some kids experience, but you couldn’t pay me to relive them.
Sixth grade carved some self-doubts into my heart. It wouldn’t be the only year to do so, but it was probably one of the firsts. Nervous excitement, perched on my desk chair under the florescent lighting of Mrs. Powell’s home room, I quickly learned that not everyone in the classroom can be friends. Puberty had drawn some lines between those that had and those that hadn’t. From those who liked boys and from those who still thought boys were relatively disgusting creatures. To find acceptance with the elusive “in” crowd, a girl had to wear the right kicks (namely, white Keds) and know how to apply hairspray. Of course, glasses put you in the cusp of “slim chance”–and so my bottle-caps didn’t help me. Back when glasses weren’t a cool accessory like they are now.
My two best friends, Amber and Brooke, were not in the cool crowd, but amazingly, the blonde “five” (the five popular girls) regularly talked to Brooke and invited her over to their lunch table, even though Brooke had brown hair and scuffed brown shoes. Brooke remained polite, but she never disowned our pitiful band of three. She knew that life was more than the acceptance of fickle favor with “the five”.
Part of the problem with our dividing lines rested outside our appearance and name-brand shoes. To be popular, a person had to find passion and excitement in the “right” things. You never, ever got excited about a science experiment or an art project. You didn’t smile at the teachers, but eye-rolling earned you high marks. You talked with enthusiasm about movies, music, and lip gloss, and of course…boys. But, if you started raging over world issues, gushing over dreams or plans for the future, or discussing your parents or the Lord with respect, you were ousted. This standard held true for 7th grade as well. It wasn’t until I learned it little bit more about who I was and who I wanted to become (regardless of how popular it made me) that I could step away from the crazy…at least for a few years.
As we walk into adulthood, we wipe our brow, exhale and laugh, “Aren’t you glad we’re past that phase?” But are we? If you look around–even within the church–the standard currency of our culture is material comforts and criticism. We still trade stories, analyzing how people respond. Do they join us in complaining or do they challenge us toward a more eternal perspective? Who are your friends and why? What do you discuss on a Friday night over the grilled hamburgers and burping babies? Have we traded eye-rolling the teacher for eye-rolling the boss? Have we traded showing off name-brand shoes for bigger flat-screens, upgraded package plans, and our latest-model SUV? Do we scoff at those who bring up social issues, poverty, ministry, the church, and prayer? Do we live life on purpose or purposefully avoid service? Have we just become a grown-up version of our navel-gazing selves?
Does our focus point to Christ? Does our striving brings us closer to the Kingdom? Does our money impact the least of these? Do our words edifying and encourage? Do our attitudes reflect an eternal perspective of faith, hope and love? Are we self-controlled, fervent, gracious, and hospitable? (I Peter 4:7-11). Yipes on me.
When you are tempted to fall into a rut of detrimental (or just not beneficial) conversation (as we all are from time to time), ask the Holy Spirit to guide your heart and your words to what is pure and noble (Phil. 4:8).
If this new purpose doesn’t make you as acceptable or included as it used to, consider finding a new community. To grow up in God, we have to surround ourselves with people who are running the same course we are.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.~Eleanor Roosevelt