Out of the mouths of babes...have you ever heard that saying? Do you know where it came from? Yep. The bible. I mean, the expression itself has been shortened and revised, but it originated in the bible. "You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you." and again "From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth praise." (Psalms and Matthew) You see, even the stories of our youngest humans, declare praise to our King, and so when they speak or cry out, we should listen.
Meet my student and friend, Rachel. Side note: This is a different Rachel than last week's guest and I do have friends with other names. In this photo, I'm the one in the middle behind the giant fish, and to my left (your right) that beauty is Rachel. Ok, so she isn't a child or infant, she is a teenager, but you get the point, right? Rachel is a high school Junior, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a Jesus follower, a performer, and an all around pretty remarkable human. Rachel and I have taught the Sunday services together during a church wide student takeover, and we have had countless conversations about life and love and words and Jesus. Rachel is a talented communicator. This girl has some things to say and her life definitely speaks praise to our creator and silences the enemy. I asked Rachel if she could say anything to other women of all ages about how we can encourage each other, what would it be? I asked her to think through her own experiences, her own age and stage of life, and the realities of being a teen and a chick in this world. This is what she had to say:
“I picture a summer in Michigan with all of my cousins and my really close friends laying in a big hammock...we’re swinging and then we fall and land on top of each other, but we’re laughing.”
This was the answer I received from my friend, Shannon, when I asked her about a moment in life when she felt the most comfortable, the most alive, the most herself. A lot of the friends that I asked to describe the moments where they felt like this had common answers: driving in the car with the windows down, dancing carelessly with the people they love, laughing so hard that their stomach hurt, sunsets, conversations where all of your walls come down and make them feel like they can finally take a deep breath of healthy, loving air. I’m sure every one of us can look back on moments in our lives and feel that tinge of warmth. Maybe we remember it while we’re listening to a song or smell a specific scent. The thing all of these moments had in common was something very simple: there is someone else or a community there who creates the space to be exactly who you are in that moment.
The beauty in these moments is the authenticity and the lack of fear to be goofy or honest.
Something I would argue is plaguing our society and robbing us of these moments of authenticity is the idea that talking negatively about people is okay. A misconception that we allow ourselves to believe is that sharing an embarrassing story about someone, complaining, or “ranting” is harmless, and even builds relationships. Sometimes gossiping or joining in on judgement deceivingly makes us feel more connected to someone or more a part of something.
Through my experiences, I have observed that in order to support the relationships I’m in, I need to focus less on whether or not what I’m saying goes over the line, and focus more on how far away from the line I can stay.
By that, I mean, asking myself questions like: how can I lovingly talk about people? How can I respectfully and kindly respond to someone’s anger by providing a healthy solution, or by just simply providing sympathy rather than piling onto the frustration? How can I wisely choose the people who I discuss my relational frustrations, anxieties, or conflicts with? When questions like this are on the forefront of our minds, our relationships start to change. Not just with the people we have conflicts with, but with the people we share those problems with. For teen women communities in particular, when discovering our own self confidence is such a work in progress, promoting acceptance is vital. When someone can demonstrate patience and acceptance for other people, even when it isn’t popular, they promote the concept that the people around them are allowed to make mistakes, and they will be loved beyond it.
One of the major things we as teenagers (and humans in general) yearn for, and sometimes end up stumbling over searching for it in unhealthy places, is acceptance, community, and love.
Contradictory to how we sometimes act in our communities, that isn’t built by allowing negativity to fester. Sometimes sacrificing momentary connection or acceptance by refusing to join in on making a common enemy actually promotes deeper connections with others in our lives, because suddenly it allows other people the space to truly be themselves. Although this is a tremendously difficult skill to master, it’s worth the conscious effort of paying attention to what we join in on, who we speak our frustrations to, and how we respond to others when they come to us with those same issues. Even though this doesn’t just apply to women, it should be a focus for us as we learn to support each other beyond our close social circles. Positivity and acceptance in front of people and behind their back also allows the space for other women to feel comfortable being the strong and confident people that they are.
The world needs more of these kinds of women, but additionally, it needs more women that create these kind of women.
I’ve been learning about and performing music for almost my entire life, but every once and awhile, I gain a new perspective on something. During a workshop, our director introduced us to a warmup intentionally created for what he was about to teach us. Each voice part sang different harmonies, and they were very simple; much simpler than what we had been singing all day, leaving me wondering why this was necessary. Despite my attitude, the director conducted us through each change of note, and finally ended a chord that sent shivers down my spine immediately. As a very large room filled with hundred of singers swelled with sound, the director began yelling over the voices for us to listen, not just to the notes that were being sung, but to the notes that weren’t but could still be heard. I began to hear notes that weren’t even part of the chord as the booming voice of the director encouraged us to listen for the orchestra that was playing all around us. When he finally moved his hand in the circular motion signaling for us to stop singing, he explained that what we were hearing was overtones. Overtones are only created when a chord is perfectly in tune, so no individual singer or voice part can be over or under the pitch even slightly. Learning and experiencing this was a beautiful way for me to discover something new about music, but it also struck me as such a relevant metaphor for relationships.
If the words a person is letting come out of their mouth is lacking in judgement, and filled with love, beautiful moments and genuine fellowship can be created and filled with comfort and freedom.
The moment a note enters the chord that is sharp or flat, the chord can still be created, but just without the extra beauty, and the audience may not even pick up on there being something wrong with the sound. The same can be true of relationships that revolve around gossip, judgement, or jealousy. Someone in a relationship with someone that creates this negativity may not even realize that it’s bad, because, sometimes, it really does feel like it’s connecting the two of you.
However, we as a society need to ask ourselves what the fuel of a good relationship is.
If it begins with discussing someone else’s life in a negative way that we shouldn’t even be involved in, judging someone else, or finding ways to hurtfully and collectively complain about someone else’s actions, a relationship can be poisoned almost instantly. When community is built around this sin and hatred, rather than love and acceptance, moments like sunsets, hikes, hammocks, driving in the car with all the windows down, or soul touching conversations lose their color and their authenticity.
When I think about my most cherished relationships, I think about the ones where they are there to listen when I need to process the actions of someone else, but always point me back to the Godly way to handle the situation.
These are the people that I can trust to talk about me lovingly and respectfully when I’m not there, giving me the space to be my most authentic, most vulnerable, most goofy, and most loving self.
The ingredient for those perfect moments is love.
Do not let judgement, negativity, and hate poison them