Back in August of 2015, shortly after I made the decision to stop coloring my hair, there was a miscommunication with my lovely hairdresser and myself. A major miscommunication. And I found myself with blonde hair for the first time in my life. This post was started a couple of months later, when my children’s church kiddos began to speak out about the, uh, interesting changes going on.
“Why is your hair half white and half blonde?” The question was loud, clamorous, and it jumped out of him with the natural curiosity of an elementary-school-aged boy.
I love teaching Children’s Church.
The kids are so sweet (mostofthetime), and energetic, and…and…unfiltered. You never know what they are going to come out with.
Still, I was caught off guard and I wracked my brain for a simplistic answer. “Um, I like the white so I’m letting it grow out,” I told him. Which was mostly true, even if I didn’t like the process.
The pastor’s daughter, a young lady with incredible theatrical skills that are constantly honed in a family of comedians and gifted speakers, looked at me with a hint of sage sympathy. “Gray is a lovely shade for you,” she crooned. (Yes, yes, she did.)
Her best bud, who appears to have Mercy as her middle name, also took up the cause. “She’s still pretty, you know!” she practically shouted at the boy, hand on hip.
And thought this little band of elementary school kids represent how the church should be. Attentive. Inquisitive. Noticing when something is, uh, different, and not afraid to speak out about it. Loving and got-your-back defensive.
It’s how I want my people to be. Not that it always feels good or comfortable, but we need to be surrounded by folks bold enough to speak out the truth, and willing to question us about things that seem not-quite-right. And we also need our inner circle to include people who encourage us and shower us with mercy and love through tough “growing out” phases.
Yep, those young ‘uns got it right. (I think that’s why I’ve spent the last 25 years “teaching” them. Because truth is, I’m mostly in the student seat, even though I’m holding the teacher’s curriculum, and buying the treats.)
I remember back in my high school years. (I know, I know. I can’t remember where I put my cup of coffee ten minutes ago. But yeah. Some things get stuck in the recesses, even when you’d rather forget…)
I was bulimic.
Along with alcohol, bulimia was a coping method. I can see now, it was a way of controlling something. My mother knew. About the sickness. I know this, because one day she left an article about bulimia on my bed. But never once did she ask me any questions, never once did she confront me. And how my heart longed to be confronted! It would have meant she saw me, that she cared. And when she didn’t ask, my heart hardened. The alcohol consumption, the bulimia increased.
(Looking back through eyes of grace, I can see how difficult it would have been for her. She had no support, no internet access to google “How to Talk to Your Teen about Bulimia” and so forth. She was a single mom of six kids doing the best she could.)
Fast forward to a few months ago. A friend, one I don’t have as much contact with these days, sent a message that began something like “I hope this isn’t too forward or inappropriate, please forgive, but…” and she went on to ask a question about a personal issue. Even though we don’t see each other much, she had astutely noticed something not-quite-right. And was asking about it.
In that moment, I loved my friend a little bit more.
Because she asked, I could share my heartache with her, and I knew she would be praying for me.
I want to be like my friend. Like the elementary school kids. I want to pay attention, be willing to ask tough questions when the Spirit leads. Because that is what we are really commanded to do.
We’ve each been given a little “classroom,” a group of people we’re surrounded with, a specific place in the world. Then there are those “others” that God puts on our heart. Together this makes our circle, our herd, our flock, the ones we need to be watching out for. Ready to ask bold questions, followed by encouragement, love, grace and support. And we also need to be ready to be on the receiving end.
Proverbs 27:23 says “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds. The verses go on to explain that there are practical rewards for a farmer who is being diligent and attentive in caring for his flock. This principle can also be applied on a relationship level. If we want to grow in our relationships, and reap the rewards, we must be attentive and willing to “work” them. It ain’t always easy though. Sometimes it’s easier to watch Netflix, or play Scrabble, or scroll through Pinterest or take a long walk, or, (insert your time thief here) than to pour time and sweat into people. Because frankly, sometimes people are just, difficult.
But it’s what we are created for. Relationships. Loving and caring for others.
Jesus responded to the questioning scribes that the greatest commandment was first to love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and then to love their neighbors. (Mark 12:28-31) There is no greater commandment than loving God and loving others. And we can’t love without knowing what is going on, without taking time and being attentive to the lives of others.
So I’m going to take lessons from my little band of children’s church students and my questioning friend; I’m going to be attentive, and open my heart a bit more to both asking and allowing hard questions to be asked, to both offering and receiving love, laughter, and encouragement during growing (out) seasons.
It’s not that hard after all. And eventually brings a harvest full of rewards.
Grateful for this wonderful life (and all the Littles in it!),
Marie with a 🙂