The questions, scrawled with crayon on scraps of paper, trickled in. Silently passing the meticulously folded note cards through the hands of their newly formed friends, girls floated heartfelt, hard to ask questions to the front of the room. Each question multi-layered and multifaceted. Each carefully crafted, revealing an intimate reflection of a young girl’s heart.
Vulnerable. Confused. Wanting.
Wanting answers. Wanting direction. Wanting identity. Wanting a loving hand to come alongside her and answer some of life’s most intimate questions. Those we hold most dear and often, most private — questions about sex and dating.
“How far is too far?”
“How can I tell if a guy is right for me?”
“What if I’ve already made bad choices, will God forgive me?”
“What if another has forced himself on me? Am I still whole? Will I ever find peace?”
Haunting questions for girls who may or may not have a soul to talk to… At least not one with whom they fell safe sharing such treasured thoughts.
There are around two dozen high school girls volunteering a month of their precious summer hours, serving families and peers at Young Life’s Trail West camp. Time that could be spent lazing by the pool, flirtatiously texting inside jokes, viewing the latest blockbuster in an air-conditioned theater or padding their savings accounts with a summer job, is now spent washing other people’s toilets, folding other people’s laundry, serving other people’s meals, washing other people’s dishes and chasing around other people’s kids. All on very little sleep. Traveling to Colorado from all parts of the country on their own dime. Not a penny earned, but many spent.
What an honor it is for me to get even a small glimpse into the hearts of these adolescent girls. Now, over twenty years later, it doesn’t take long to teleport my almost forty-year-old mind back to those emotional, confusing, angst-ridden teenage years.
I revel in the woman I have become, but I do not forget the girl I once was.
Her story is my story. Her pain, my pain. Her sorrow and confusion, still dear to me. It is only through God’s grace, coming out on the other side of those dark and private struggles that I can begin to sympathize, empathize and testify to the fact that the Lord truly does bring beauty from pain.
What a precious gift we have to give as mature women. (Dare I say, middle-aged?!) We are women who have lived long enough to experience pain, both invited and uninvited. What a privilege it is to look into the doe eyes of those 25 years my junior and impart words of truth. Words of life. Words that invite them to shed light on the deepest and most confused parts of their souls.
With each unique response to each individual question, we women brought light to the darkness. In community, we locked hands with authenticity and vulnerability. Viewing our stories as beautiful portrayals of redemption and truth rather than shameful and guilt-laden baggage. Stories of connection. Stories of God’s redeeming love and eternal promise.
The years tick away and technology advances, but adolescent struggles over identity, belonging, independence, dependence and even co-dependence are as old as time. Some phases of life just don’t get any easier.
Girls are longing to connect. Dying to be known. Daring us to accept them just as they are. Those of us, farther along on this journey can reach back and grasp their hands.
We desire to listen to their stories and share our own. In a tender dance of vulnerability and authenticity, we expose buried thoughts and experiences. Powerful words. Powerful testimonies.
Each spoken word rushes to the light of the One who beckons us to shed all that hinders and dance in His glorious presence. Into the light of the One who compels us to run this race, ever transforming into the women He created us to be. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)
When was the last time you took this risk? This risk to authentically share your story, warts and all with a young woman just getting her feet wet in the ocean of life. In God’s holy paradox, we boast in our weakness so He may become strong.
Who are YOU to risk and to share?
If even one young woman finds solace in a safe soul, who are you NOT to?