The letter fell out of my daughter’s photo album; it was a note I had written to her on her first day of junior high school. For most people, junior high conjures up many memories, a milieu of emotionally laden experiences. Powerful choices are made in those early years, and life in junior high can be punctuated with painful memories. As she entered junior high, Ashley was fearful, filled with questions: Will I be “liked”? What if I’m not? Will I fit in, and what if I don’t? Are my clothes “right,” and what if they aren’t? No one could answer these questions because people are unpredictable. Those who have been hurt, hurt others. Those who have been bullied, bully others. Those who have been rejected, reject others . . . and on it goes.
Wiping off the dust, I read what I’d written many years ago. Sections of it included: “Sometimes, it seems like parents never went through what their kids are going through . . . second guessing every move and choice . . . it seems like they knew how to handle school and pressure and didn’t feel insecure. I want you to know I did feel unsteady, unsure of myself, scared, and insecure—not cute and smart and fun, but lonely and afraid. I remember walking into school, seeing my friends and hoping they saw me too.”
I wrote in that letter about my teachers, math class, speech meets, successes and failures, and finally about making good choices—regardless of what anyone else does or says or chooses. In fact, I repeated what my dad said to me when I was a student: “I don’t care if the entire school is going to that______, you will not be going.” Living for what you believe in is often unpopular. But nowhere in the Bible did Christ take a popularity vote. He never hung out with the “cool” or “in” crowd which was (and is) so fickle and judgmental.
So in the end, I wrote about how I loved her and that I was praying she would make choices that honored Christ. Today, you may be experiencing a “first day” of your own—literally or figuratively. Every day we may encounter those who hurt us because they have been hurt, those who bully because they have been bullied, and those who reject because they have been rejected. Junior high and high school were Ashley’s hardest years, but her perseverance through them developed an inner strength and character she would not have otherwise. That is true for you too. Though pain persists, you can choose to forge a strong faith and an uncompromising character in spite of it. I ended her letter with these four timeless points:
- Mistakes are just as important as accomplishments.
- Being honest will always bring you peace.
- Truth will always outlast pressure, which will bring you confidence.
- A kind word is always appreciated.
Ashley, I love you. Mom.