Last year, my daughter’s middle school had 66 suspensions.
In one week.
And one arrest.
I found out when she texted me the stats with several exclamation points after them.
My heart sunk and my pulse quickened.
She was scared. I know my girl was scared.
Fear is a tricky thing. I know because I often live in it. I’m afraid that may be where my girl got this malicious and tormenting trait. She’s in 8th grade, but she’s young for her class, and she still has a very innocent way about her. I gotta say, I love that more than sunshine.
I dreaded sending her to middle school when she was starting 6th grade. I cringed at the anticipated exposure she was going to experience. I knew this school would open her world, her perspective, her view-
And the landscape might scare her, even scar her.
And yet, I sent her anyway.
I spent agonizing months deciding between home school or public school. I went round and round in pros and cons and worries and wonderings while praying for peace and an answer.
Eventually I rested on what I believe to be God’s purpose for her life.
She exudes His Light, and the way I see it- the world needs more of it.
Middle school is a cruel awakening to the world, and although I was afraid to release her into the wild, I had hope that her faith and fortitude would be enough to both protect her and provide for her the ability to navigate the landscape with grace and purpose.
I’ve been in awe of her courage, her stamina, and her survival in this challenging journey. She doesn’t have many friends, as she quietly resides under the radar in the fragmented fray. She loves learning, and dives deeply into her studies and adores her teachers. She quietly roams the hallways undetected as she often keeps to herself, in a loud and sometimes violent and vicious culture that seems almost foreign to her.
Last year, she began leaving encouraging notes in people’s lockers. There were a few people she interacted with who shared some intense battles of their own- and she felt the need to offer support in a personal way. She wrote notes filled with scripture verses that she truly believed would inspire them. Bless her. It was difficult to shift her determination, as I explained how someone who does not read the bible or know Christ could interpret her notes as threatening or pushy and not comforting, like she had so sweetly intended them to be. I explained that although we find comfort in God’s Word, we must consider the recipient and how they may not understand our offering. Her eyes widened in revelation and panic, worried she did the wrong thing. I reassured her that sending messages of hope and love is never the wrong thing. She continued with the notes, editing out scripture.
This was very difficult for both of us. But I wanted to teach her how to reach people’s hearts for the Lord, with awareness and respect. I wanted to guide her through making decisions in connecting and caring for others right where they’re at first, and show her the tender ways she can open hearts to Jesus through establishing relationships and trust. I wanted to show her how the world works, and how threading our faith into it can be both rewarding and incredibly challenging.
But most importantly, I wanted her to keep feeding that flame of faithful determination and innocent inspiration. I pray the world never blows it out.
There are many days, my daughter comes home exasperated with what she saw or heard at school. She expresses disgust and anger about many things she doesn’t understand and why people would make such horrible choices. Sometimes the judgment in her voice makes me cringe, and I have to challenge her condemnation and lead her toward conviction. There are many things in this world that ignite a fury of anger and disgust and our immediate response is judgment and condemnation. My girl is facing the greatest education in managing and processing Grace in a turbulent time, and as a Christian- these are the most important lessons of all.
How do we respond, when we witness wrongdoings? What does God want us to do? How would Jesus respond?
It’s a loaded question, littered with all kinds of biblical answers, Christian messages, and even misconceived truths. It’s complicated and often convoluted. This is new territory for my girl, and I’m grateful to have this practice ground to work with her, because for the rest of her life she will be facing the same question and each and every time she will have to respond.
My daughter’s middle school experience has been a lonely one, and that makes my heart ache with sadness and discouragement often. But I remind her that she does have friends- true friends, even though they may not be with her at school. I continue to encourage her to be open to making new friends, and not close herself off in that critical outlook she sometimes gathers in her protective path. For two years, I’ve watched her slump into sadness for this reason, but it has helped her learn what true friendship really means. She has developed an instinct for who to trust and who not to trust. She’s learning the value of being real with those you choose to have around you, and how superficial relationships are a waste. She’s developed the art of discernment, picking friends who celebrate who you are and ones who respect your voice. She realizes that her foundation is full of principles and values she will not bend for anyone, and boundaries can’t be broken for the sake of fitting in or saving face. She’s already witnessed the demise of old friends, falling victim to social pressures with poor decisions and reckless behavior.
Somehow, my girl has managed to stay grounded in her foundation while the battlefield for popularity, commonality, and conformity runs rampant. Her unwavering will to stick to her morals, continues to build more muscle strength, as she makes those hard decisions and stands firmly on her ground. I’m betting she will need this impenetrability to solidify before she enters the doors of High School.
Three years ago, I gave my girl to the world, believing that God wanted her there to do His work. I was terrified to let her go. I was clinging to the promise of God’s provision, protection, and plan for her life.
I know my girl would be thriving in a private Christian school that offers bible classes, daily devotions and regular chapel services. She would eat that buffet up, soak it in, and soar into the world equipped, strengthened, and faithful.
But this road we chose? This rocky winding path offers my young and growing Christian Soldier true training ground that will equip her for years to come. It may be difficult, lonely, and scary. It may open views I’d rather she not see. It may steal her innocence and limit her light, but both still prevail in new ways- sculpted by His Mighty Hand to be used for His Good.
“Mom! Someone got arrested yesterday and we were told there were 66 suspensions just last week!!!”
I picked her up from school, and saw her weary and worried eyes. This stuff takes a toll on my girl, I know.
“Are you afraid?” I asked.
And she replied, “Yeah. But I’ll be okay.”
This world can be scary, but God calls us to walk in it and shine His Light.
It’s scary for us all
But we’ll be okay.
My daughter said so.
*The original version of this post was first published at Her View From Home.