I picked up Benjamin and David for twelve straight years at Willowdale Elementary School. I never would have guessed it at the time, but I miss those days. The little children have acceptance figured out. They don’t care what neighborhood anybody comes from or the color of a person’s skin. They don’t have a political party yet and disregard each other’s social standing. The world hasn’t taught them things like pride and prejudice yet.
Nowadays I pick up David at Russell Middle School. I patiently wait on 172ndStreet in my black Volvo. I know many of the kids. They call me PC. I thought it stood for “pretty cool” but it’s actually Pastor Craig. Some are from church. Some are from elementary school. Some are from lacrosse, soccer, basketball, football, or whatever other sport David has dabbled in. Others come over to hang out or spend the night. Some wave and say “hello”. Some don’t. Some of them walk in a large group and are accepted. Others wait or walk alone.
Life changes even more.
Acceptance doesn’t always get better. It gets worse. The woman looks out her window and sees all the neighbors gathering. She didn’t get the memo. She never does. Her husband doesn’t accept her either. He thinks she is too big. The neighbor in the back doesn’t feel accepted either because of his sexual orientation. The person at work isn’t as productive as the boss wants. The college student is too religious. The couple is too old. The man is an alcoholic.
You see, we are pretty good at slapping labels on people. Some are positive and affirming: strong, courageous, gracious, hard-working, wise, loving, compassionate, etc… Others are neither positive nor affirming. Lazy, failure, fat, funny-looking, mean, stupid, weak, loser, failure, not-good-enough, etc…
Once you label me, you negate me. –Søren Kierkegaard
Being labeled is no fun. Positive labels put us in a box and negative labels can really sting. Not being accepted just plain hurts. Some of us visit Unaccepted Avenue from time to time. Others of us live there. It’s a lonely street that doubles as a dead end.
But whether you live on Prosperous Parkway or Unaccepted Avenue, God has a label for you: Accepted. Yep, you. It doesn’t matter if you are standing by yourself waiting for your dad to pick you pick after school or looking out your window wishing you were invited to the party. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how big of a failure you are. Labels may negate, but God accepts you.
The world is full of critics. Some will label you. Some won’t accept you. Their criticism probably has more to do with themsevles than it does with you. God accepts you where you are and as you are and loves you so much that He will not leave you where you are.
The best is yet to come…