Beauty from Awkward
One of my college roommates recently sucked me into the Black Hole of Wasted Time, otherwise known as Facebook. I was reluctant at first and laughed about how I felt way too old for such networking technology – wasn’t this a tool for high school kids with too much time on their hands?
But then I started getting “friend requests” from people I hadn’t seen or heard from in years – college friends, high school friends, school-age friends – and a funny thing happened. I became addicted.
Reconnecting with old friends has – for better or worse – taken my mind back to those awkward years. Last fall, I found my friend, Amy, who I met in 5th grade. She’s married now with two kids and living in Austin, and we were both thrilled to find each other many years after losing touch. We both marveled at the fact that I now have a daughter who is about the same age we were when we met.
That thought stayed in the back of my mind and resurfaced with an unholy vengeance one night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. Fifth grade. Fifth grade was a nightmare for me. I had the strictest teacher in the entire school. I was awkward and insecure …and just plain mean. I didn’t know how to be a friend or keep a friend. I wanted so badly to fit in and be accepted, but I had absolutely no clue how to achieve that.
Aah, remember those days?
All the rejection, both subtle and overt, flooded my mind that night as I lay in my bed, and I began to pray for Meghan, my almost-10 year old daughter.
Meghan is the kind of girl I wish I could have been. She is confident and sweet and compassionate. She is kind and empathetic. She is innately attuned to the thoughts and feelings of others, and she has a heart for the underdog. Like me, she has a tendency for a flaring temper, and she shares my inclination for shyness and introversion, but she is everything I wish I could have been.
Last year was pretty rough for Meghan, and she struggled to fit in while several of her friends wanted to hurriedly grow up and vicariously live as teenagers (thank you, Hannah Montana). She faced some rejection and disillusionment, but she came through it with more grace and confidence than I ever thought possible for a nine year old girl. Meghan told me recently, “You know, Mom, I learned last year that God doesn’t always let our lives be easy, but He grows my character. I learned to pray deeper and get closer to Him because of what happened last year.” I think 9-year old Jennifer would have thrown myself down on the floor in a screaming fit, then grown fangs of revenge to use against all those who dared to cross me.
I’m not exactly sure where Meghan got such confidence and grace. Certainly her daddy is the epitome of kindness. I’d like to think that as God has transformed my heart and mind over the last twenty years or so, my own character is now a worthy example for her. That thought astounds me, especially when I consider my family heritage of rage, intolerance, jealousy, alcoholism, and anger. I’ve told God many times, “This stops here. Right now. With me. I will not allow this to pass on to my kids and grandkids.” By His mercy and transforming favor, He has given my kids a legacy of compassion, gentleness, and self-control. Most days. It takes a very conscientious effort on my part to reject my default response.
My aunt told me years ago that despite some ugliness on the old family tree, there runs a scarlet thread of redemption, particularly on my grandfather’s side. God Himself promises His covenant of love and faithfulness “to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:10, 7:9).What a glorious thought! I am not doomed to my own past mistakes and failures, and I am not inexorably tied to the legacy of my heritage. More than that, my kids are not doomed! I can choose transformation and set myself – and my kids – on a path that leads to abundant joy and life instead of insecurity and anger.
I know Meghan’s life is about to get really, really hard. (Potty training and tantrums don’t seem so bad now!) On one hand, I’m absolutely dreading the teenage years. But on the other hand, I know God has started an amazing work in her, and she has the potential to become an incredible young woman, used by God for His sovereign purpose.
Let the drama begin.