“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his live for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14
I sat in a circle with twelve seventh grade girls after four hours of sleep while attending a retreat/lock-in last Saturday.
The exercise assigned was to write down what we thought others thought of us. Each girl shared. From nice to silly, artistic to sporty, blonde (yep, blonde) to brainy came a variety of responses. Some comments were simple and confident, others were difficult and cutting. Each was honest.
Then we flipped the paper over and wrote down things we wished other people knew about us. Taking turns each girl read what she wanted voiced. When we started around the circle there was a shy stillness, but by the time the last young lady spoke there was a strong confidence within our group. Their commonalities and differences helped strengthen each other as they progressed from one girl to the next. With the progression also came a surge of encouragement.
I want to take this moment to share some of the things they wished other people knew about them hoping their self-examination will encourage others to take an honest look inside themselves.
Here are some of the words that were spoken:
- I want to make a difference in people’s lives.
- I am smart.
- I really care about what happens to other people.
- I try really hard to get things right, but sometimes I mess up.
- I’m not immature all the time, sometimes I just don’t know how to handle situations.
- I get scared sometimes, but I want to be really brave.
- I’m a good listener and I’m trustworthy.
- I like to inspire people.
- Although I overthink things sometimes; I really want things to turn out alright.
- Even though I’m quiet, I like being around other people.
- I worry about stuff that I shouldn’t because I want things to work out for my friends.
- I am a good person.
I’m not sure what it was about this process that touched me the most. The girl’s ability to pinpoint items they wished people could see or the amount of encouragement and understanding that opened as each one took a turn. I seriously doubt I will remember the details, but I will remember that each beautiful and amazing young women yearned to impact others. Their personality traits, fears, goals and dreams were shared bravely with each other and that gave hope to me, a very sleepy forty-four year old. Hope for this upcoming generation. They have a desire to be creative, listen, inspire and make a difference in other’s lives. They are learning they don’t have to be perfect to be used by God. This is something I don’t see often on social media or television, so to sit and listen was a blessing.
As we closed our time together before lunch, one of the girls began to speak of another friend she was concerned for. At first, I thought we might be headed towards the gossip ghetto, so I listened cautiously. As she continued to speak her heart’s desire came through. She shared how her friend and friend’s sister were the only ones in their family who knew Christ. She was worried they would fall away from Christ without their family’s support. I put the girl sharing on the spot when I asked if she’d like to take a moment to pray for her friend. She stepped up boldly and did so. After she finished, I prayed over the girls to be a light to their friends and recognize their role as encouragers. Another girl in the circle spoke up when I finished asking if she too could pray. This time for the family of the friend we had prayed for. She prayed that through the circle of seventh grade friends encouraging their friend and sister to have a stronger relationship with Christ that the friend’s family would also come to know Christ.
I left for lunch with the comfort of knowing these twelve girls were not only studying about being followers of Christ, they were practicing what it meant. That made my heart very happy!