I am but a child. A silly, little girl. At forty-two. How can this be?? Incredibly, I find I haven’t advanced much beyond my primary school days. No. Every single thing that mattered then still matters today. Like grades. Because at forty-two, I discover I’m still striving to be a straight A student.
Recently, I felt as I did in first grade. Our teacher, Ms. Wittle, would walk slowly around the classroom and squat by each desk to check our work, red colored pencil in hand. She peered over my paper but oh, there was an error. And then another. So no, I didn’t receive my reward. A sticker to indicate a job well done.
Instead, I got this…
Oh, how my insides churned as Ms. Wittle looked over Martha’s paper. Because apparently, she was a good girl. She did very well, indeed. I can still see the smile my classmate was favored with and hear the crinkling of the paper as the sticker was lifted away. Martha won the day.
It’s this memory that presses into me today. As vivid as the day it occurred some thirty-six years ago. The recollection was burned into a heart that felt as heavy as lead. Because that day I felt small. Inadequate. Insecure. And unacceptable. Basically, unlikeable. This is how the red lines etched upon my paper made me feel. And this is how I felt this week.
And how silly this is! Incredulous that in the midst of random police shootings and a loved one’s struggle to simply live comfortably, I cry over my report card. I agonize over the grades I receive in the school of life.
Last night I had hot tears. I ached inside. It came from the pit of loneliness. As I lay next to my husband, tears spurted. He comforted me and asked me what was wrong no less than four times. Because I didn’t want to say it. I know how dumb it sounds. How trivial. And yet, it’s real. My hurt is real.
Finally, I uttered what lie in my heart. I told him I want to be first. I want to be the one who’s someone else’s first choice. And unlike my last cry fest in which he chastised me for my luxury complaints, this time he held me instead. He told me there are three people in our home who pick me first.
And though my husband’s tender words soothed my festering wound, they didn’t eliminate the poison that pollutes my soul…
A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Growing up, I always had one good friend. Kindergarten through third was Jennifer. I loved her so as she shone in my eyes. Pretty and popular. And strong. In second grade, we had the opportunity to try and lift a fireman’s oxygen container. Tony told me no way could I do it, but Jennifer could. And she did. Me? I struggled but managed to lift it a few inches off the floor.
Fourth grade was Hannah. She wore a purple Hang Ten mini skirt. Definitely a leader as all us girls flocked to her. Fifth I had two best friends. Jennifer and I were reunited and Sarah came into my life. And as time wore on, others drifted in and out of my life. But the point is, there was always one. One special friend. Or two. Really close. Like a sister.
We knew everything there was to know about each other. Colors. TV. Music. Boys. And truth is, that’s what I long for today. I want a woman who knows me from the inside out. How I take my coffee. How I feel just by the look on my face. A woman who can drop by anytime without having to call first. A woman who will choose me first. Every time.
I want. To be. First. First pick. First place. Just first.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. Colossians 1:18
I picked up a book I hadn’t read for over two weeks this morning. The above verse is what I found. Mind you, I’d already logged in my journal how I wanted to be 1st choice. But lo and behold, I discovered the position is already taken. Or it should be. First place belongs to Jesus. He should be my choice.
So here’s the thing about life. And striving for those straight A’s. See, there is no one person who can give me a passing grade in every single category. No friend (no matter how good she may be) can give me everything I crave: approval, acknowledgement, accolades, affirmation, assurance and acceptance.
Oh, she may give me a piece of approval here and a slice of affirmation there. But she is not God. I cannot look to her or her red pencil for acceptance. Because she is not capable of affirming me like I hope she can. Or will. And like me, she may even be trying for an “A” herself.
“Great Expectations” keeps coming at me. The title. Charles Dickens’ book. I think God is trying to show me my expectations are too high. I am placing people too high on a pedestal. The danger there is they’re likely to fall off. Because no one can stay that high. And the first time they let me down, I’ll end up pushing them down. Off that pedestal. And when that happens, no one gets an “A”. Or the gold star. Or the smiley face.
It’s true. I am a lonely woman. But I keep looking in the wrong places for fulfillment. It’s not one woman who will fill all my emptiness. It’s one Man. Jesus came to be first. And I’m His first choice. For Isaiah 43:10 tells me I am chosen to know Him. Exodus 33:17 assures me He knows my name. Thus, I find acknowledgement.
By 2 Timothy 2:15, I know I am His approved worker. I receive a pat on the back from my God through Matthew 25:21. Hebrews 10 assures me I have boldness to enter His presence at any time. No phone call necessary. Revelation 3:11 tells me if I hold on to what I have, my crown awaits. And if I can just persevere… if I can fight the good fight and finish this race, I’ll get that blue ribbon after all.
And so, through God’s very word, I find the acceptance I so desire. And affirmation this little girl so desperately seeks. My God squats down beside me at my desk. He takes out His red colored pencil and gives me the grade I’ve been looking for. Not only is it an A, but it’s an A+. That’s what my Teacher has done for me today. And the tears flow down my cheeks.
But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Matthew 23:8
Yes, I am just a child. A silly little girl. At forty-two. Inconceivable.
But despite my shortcomings, God assures me of truth. His truth. I may fall pitifully short in the school of life, but in His grade-book, I’m a straight A student.
Perfect in His eyes.