Oh, Middle School. You promised so much but delivered so little.
There are so many questions I still have about this picture:
Why am I wearing a tie for 7th-grade pictures?
Why am I wearing a knit tie?
Why am I wearing a tie with a short-sleeved shirt?
How did I manage to smile so big when I looked like that?
And yes, my teeth were really, REALLY that big. It's not a camera angle issue...it's a big teeth issue. In fact, one of my favorite (sarcasm) things people have said is, "Wow! Your teeth were so big!" News flash...they are still the same size, so........
Do you remember Middle School? For me, it meant Polo cologne (in the green bottle), french-rolled jeans (well, for others that is -- I wasn't allowed to), Growing Pains, Who's the Boss, Almonte 6 Movie Theater, Crystals Pizza, and lots of awkward moments. I'm guessing the same is true for you.
For most of us, Middle School was not the highlight of our life. Sure, there's the occasional guy who grew early, had a full beard by 8th grade, and Middle School was the time of his life. But, that's not the norm.
And that is ok because Middle School should NOT be the highlight of our life. It is a season of growth, learning, disappointment, and survival. At the time, EVERY event in Middle School seemed make-or-break, live-or-die. If, however, you could go back and talk to your Middle School self, you would say not to worry so much because these issues are not that big of a deal. You would encourage yourself with the truth that Middle School is about learning and growing, and preparing for something much more significant down the road.
It strikes me that we should probably tell ourselves the same thing much more often. Do you remember what had your stomach in knots last month? Odds are, you do not. It was not that big of a deal. Are you still in angst over that issue that kept you awake two months ago? I bet not. That is not to say that the daily struggles of life do not matter, it is just to say that most of what we go through are issues that do not last, although the lessons we learn from them surely do.
The truth is, much of life is just like those pesky Middle School years. A problem comes, it feels enormous at the moment, and fairly quickly disappears. The lessons learned endure, the problems seldom do.
If my 46-year-old self could have 5 minutes with my 13-year-old self, I would say three things:
Pay far more attention to helping people than trying to impress people
Be willing to stand out rather than always trying to fit in
Patiently endure the struggles and disappointments knowing that God is using them to strengthen you and make you stronger
It is interesting how the lessons we learned -- or should have learned -- in Middle School are the same ones we should be living out today. In fact, I'm guessing if you would re-read the three things written above they would be three things you should tell yourself today.
Take heart! The struggle of this day is not likely to last. The disappointment you are feeling right now will almost certainly be soon forgotten. Choose to spend your day serving, not impressing. Make a choice to stand out for the cause of Christ rather than trying to blend in with the world. Endure today's pain, knowing it is building tomorrow's strength.
And by all means, destroy those Middle School pictures that may still be in existence!
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