Sunday, August 14, 2011

God's Grace in the Midst of Middle School Misery

by Virginia Knowles

8th grade
San Carlos, California.  April 1977.  I had just announced to my classmates that our family was moving to Baltimore.  A red headed chick named Kathleen burst out, “Yay!  Now we won’t have to pick her for our teams in gym class anymore!”  I have laughed about that many times since then, but there was also still a sting from the constant and cruel peer rejection that I suffered for so many years.  I’m sure many of you can relate.   Middle school kids can still be vicious.   Maybe this happened to you or maybe you treated other kids like that.  Middle school misery is real.

Well, I was one of those middle school outcasts.  I dressed and acted weirdly.  I talked too much.  I played chess at lunch time in the school library with the other outcast nerds, or we hung out at the nerd bench in the playground.  I had one dear Christian friend named Donna, a Jewish friend named Teresa, a Mormon friend named Kathleen, and a Chinese friend named Anni.  We were social rejects -- and it hurt!  So where is God's grace in “Yay! She’s out of here and good riddance!”

As I reflected on this a few years ago, the amazing truth suddenly dawned on me: How kind the Lord was to rescue me up out of that place and give me a fresh start!   I had been recently saved but didn't have a church to go to.   
Anne and I at my going away party
In his sweet sovereignty, God moved me all the way across the country to Baltimore to plant me in a nurturing church where folks loved me and discipled me.  They didn’t care whether I could play sports or not!   A sweet girl named Anne, who sat next to me in chorus class in my new school, invited me to church.  Her parents faithfully drove out of their way two or three times a week to come pick me up.   By the time I moved away two years later, I had a whole bunch of great Christian friends, and I could hold my own much better among my peers at school.   Most importantly, I now had a solid foundation in Scripture, prayer, and missions.

My sister Barb and brother John, with me in the middle
I also see how kind God was to birth klutzy little me into a creative family that skipped sports, dumped the TV for six years, and put heavy emphasis on books, writing, art, and music.  Those creative pursuits all still serve me well as a home school mom.  

Another benefit I received from my own childhood experience is an increased sensitivity to the middle school students in the co-op English class that I teach.   Each week, using literature, writing, logical thinking skills, and other language arts topics, I seek to give them solid life lessons to chew on.  I personally think it is vital in learning to treat others with dignity. 

I can now see how the Lord has redeemed my middle school misery for his glory.  Instead of rejection, I now see his Tender Loving Care.   


Virginia's note: I wrote this story many years ago, and plan to share it with my 7th-8th grade English students in our Providence Home Educators co-op in conjunction with the story of Joseph in Genesis.  Even if your children are entirely schooled at home and not in a classroom, I would encourage you to talk to them about accepting others, being welcoming and friendly, not being self-righteous with those who are different from them, etc.  And as adults, we too, should do the same, not just as an example to our children, but because there are hurting people out there who need an authentic friend --- someone to listen and love and not "fix" them.

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