It was rarely the boys who made me cry. It was almost always the girls whose barbed words made my eyes sting.
I think it was during the second-grade. It’s grainy on the playback. But I remember that is was one of those warm, late-winter days when the whole class had stripped off their coats. Three girls — who had just one day earlier declared that we’d be “friends forever” — huddled under the coat pile. That giant, colorful knot of arms and zippers heaved upward with their giggling and writhing.
I’d seen the girls dive under, so I skipped across the asphalt to play along. They must have seen me coming, too, because they started a sing-songy chorus — a serenade to tell me I was a geek. I was ugly.
And I was crushed.
I remember standing there, shoulders slumped, thinking how cowardly they were: to refuse to show their faces.
And then I ran. I ran for the evergreen trees at the back of the playground, ran for a haven, a safe spot to cry, where no one could see me.
I’m grown up now, and I’m not scared anymore. I have canopied grace-places to dream and grow and cry.
I don’t have to hide under the evergreens anymore.
But I hear it from friends. They say they they are still afraid.
I spoke at a MOPS meeting last week about accepting ourselves, as-is.
“We might have reached the point in our lives where we can accept who we are in Christ,” I said, “but we still believe that others disapprove of our pasts, our parenting, our clothes, our home, our (you-fill-in-the-blank).”
I saw it in their eyes when I stood at the podium. I saw the walking wounded. So for a moment, I spoke to the rest of us, who might have inflicted that injury:
“What if we each found a way to love one more person today? What if we made a refuge where someone else could be real … really real? What if our default response was grace?”
One woman wrote me later that day to say that she fears being judged by other women because of her past.
Another said she feels like she’s been shunned by women who are jealous of her, instead of genuinely happy.
Another mother had received a gift card in the mail from an anonymous donor. The well-meaning donor included a note that mentioned how the woman’s child was dressed at church. The donor wrote that she hoped the money might be helpful. The mother, while grateful for the generosity, cried when she read the note.
What if I remembered that Jesus came for sinners — for people with messed-up marriages and flailing dreams and naughty kids and hangovers? What if I remember that he came for the megachurch pastor, and the beer-swilling tavern owner?
What if I remembered that He came for me, that His grace saved a wretch like me?
How would that change my response to the hurting woman next door?
Father, help me find ways to create safe places for women to truly breathe.
And Lord, if I see a friend hovering under the evergreens, give me the nudge to sit beside her.
Writing in community with Michelle today: