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With See You at the Pole last Wednesday, we have been preparing for the prayer event at our local middle schools and high schools. Did you attend as a student? Did you gather at the pole with your students as a teacher or faculty member? We had fun meeting up with students super early Wednesday morning. I hate to be so cliche, but I definitely had my pumpkin spice latte in hand! Love! It’s ridiculously hot here, but I can pretend it’s chilly. Seeing students gather and pray is exciting and I love being a part of praying for students, families, community, our nation, and our world.

At the same time, going into junior high and high schools also provides a view of the reality of adolescence. For most of us it is an awkwardly unpleasant experience we laugh at later in life. Walking into schools, I see the sleepy heads, the smiling faces, the students walking in packs, the well-dressed, the under-dressed, the popular, the not-so-popular, the secure, the insecure, the athletes, the musicians, the academics, the ones whose parents care, and the ones who take care of themselves and get to school simply because they get themselves there. I see students sit alone, maneuver the hallways sometimes just trying to make it through a day. Sometimes being invisible is the best option.

Seeing a student sitting alone at lunch hurts my heart. Middle school and high school years are often unkind and leave wounds that eventually scar. Not all students struggle like this and some enjoy adolescence or make it out with minimal scars, and for that, thank the Lord. For others, this time in life is like living in a jungle, just trying to survive and make it out alive. Walking through the halls of schools, I see a girl hugging her knees on a bench with a look of utter despair. I see guys walking to class with looks of absolute hopelessness. I have seen students who have been abused. I have seen students who have been abandoned by their parents – the people who should protect them – literally dropped off with a trash bag of belongings. I also see precious lives who have hope because Jesus died for them. They matter. Every life matters.

Sure, I know what it’s like to be a national champion cheerleader in college. I know what it feels like to be on homecoming court. I also know what it is like to be an acne-stricken brace-face with funky hair too. Moving once in middle school and once in high school was not exactly a party. I know what it feels like to simply want to be invisible. I know what it feels like to sit alone. I know what it feels like to not be invited to parties, even by friends in my small group at church. I know what it feels like to want to blend into the wall. Even as an adult, I know what it feels like to be lied about and sold out. Totally. I heard a long time ago that great ministry comes out of great hurt, and since I remember some serious hurt in adolescence, I definitely watch out for those students who struggle and hang out on the fringe. Don’t get me wrong, I have some good memories from adolescence, but God allowed many trials at that time as well.

I would guess it is safe to say none of us escape elementary, middle, or high school unscathed. I would guess we all know what it is like to be left out by a group, not asked to homecoming, feel awkward, or try to be included. I also guess for most of us it does not change in adulthood either. The rules of the game just change a bit. We all still want to feel included and accepted somewhere. We all want to fit in. The great news is that Jesus heals those wounds and makes the hurts better.

No matter the main reason clients come to my counseling office, most of the time, insecurity is involved. As an adolescent, the brain is actually incredibly egocentric and, through no fault of their own, simply because of brain development, adolescents think everyone is thinking about them – all the time! However, it is possible to learn to retrain the brain and be reminded that it is not always about ME! We can learn to look for people who need someone. We can learn to serve others. We can learn to include other people when it requires work, when it would be easier to simply hang out with the usual friends.

For those of you who sit alone at lunch today (metaphorically or otherwise), know Who you belong to. You are so loved the Creator, God Himself, sent His Son to die for you so You (1 John 3:16)! You matter. You are valued, not because you read this but because the Lord created you for a purpose. Life may be tough right now; maybe unbearable even, but there is HOPE. Our Father cares and hears your prayers. He loves you and has a plan for your life! I am sorry if life circumstances seem overwhelming. I am sorry if you feel left out. I am sorry if people have treated you badly. I do know Truth and that is that He is “not impressed by the strength of a horse and He does not value the power of a man,” but instead, He “values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love” (Psalm 147:10-11).

For those of you who have a place where you are, thank the Lord! Now look for opportunities to include someone else and let God enable you to be a blessing. If you see someone from your student ministry at school, be kind. They exist and need someone to include them. Everyone has a story and we don’t know what they go home to. Maybe they go home alone to silence. Maybe they go home to a place where parents fight constantly. Maybe their parents don’t care where they go or what they do. Maybe they struggle financially. Maybe they watch their parents do drugs. Maybe they feel hopeless and alone. Be a different kind of person to those who sit alone. Love those who don’t fit in. Look out for others and not just for ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). We can learn to see people the way God sees them and loves them just as much as He loves us too (1 John 4:7-19).



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