Those Awkward Days

Over the past few years I have come to a conclusion that I believe is a reflection of most adults, not simply myself. There is an innate fear, discomfort, and repulse that comes with the thought and remembrance of those awkward middle school and high school days.

You typically don't hear adults say "ah ninth grade, that was the best year of my life" or "I would love to go back to my high school days." Rather the thoughts and memories of these awkward times cause us to run the opposite direction and thank the Lord they are over.

While I can definitely resonate with these thoughts to some extent, I am one of those weird youth ministry people who absolutely loves working with students in these volatile phases of life.

My job as an admissions counselor consists of many high school visits. While I am only on week two of traveling and by no means am an expert, I have to say the experience of walking back into high schools has flooded me with many memories of not so glorious cafeteria meals, high priority cliques, and gossip that caught like wildfire. No wonder many of us would rather not relive these days.

Yesterday I did a lunch room visit that consisted of me essentially sitting off to the corner while the students ate lunch, trying to get their attention in anyway possible to come talk to me about their college decision process.. yeah you can guess how that one went.

In between the hundreds of kids surrounding my table just dying to talk to me, note the sarcasm, I had plenty of time to analyze the antics of this high school cafeteria and the students that filled it.

This one boy right in front of me (don't judge my creepiness in snapping a picture) drew in my attention. For the whole lunch period he sat alone with his head phones plugged in and did not eat a thing or talk to a single person.

One could stop me right there and say well you don't know his situation maybe that is just what he prefers. Okay, true, I can give you that, but from my limited perspective and knowledge of where this boy comes from, I found myself feeling bad for him, angry at the other students in the lunch room, and unforgiving of myself.

I was one of those students in high school that recognized situations like this but never did anything about them. Never once stepped out of my comfort zone to make someone else feel included or comfortable. Never once sacrificed my self-image and status to get to know others on the outskirts. I am willing to guess I am not alone in this.

I wish back then I would have known and practiced the humility of Christ. I wish back then I would have known and practiced the importance of loving my neighbor well. I am willing to guess I am not alone in this as well.

But here is the thing, just because that was way back when and most of us are long out of the awkward days doesn't mean we can't put into effect what we now know and practice. What do these practices look like in your life today?

For me it still is the high school scene just in a much different role. For you it may be within the work place when all your coworkers go out to lunch but those few are always left behind. Maybe it is during your church fellowship time when you'd rather sit with the families you already know. It could be in the grocery store avoiding someone you don't want to spark up a conversation with.

May we be the hands and feet of Jesus as we wish we were in the awkward days of high school. May we love and serve our neighbors equally and with humility not counting ourselves any better. May we go and do rather than turn a blind eye.

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