It is a strange thing being a High school teacher. No one tells you how often you are going to run into the memory of your 16 year old self. No one tells you that you maybe won’t like her. No one tells you that you will figure out what a huge pain in the ass you were. That is the thing about being on fire. Sometimes other people get burned.
They sit in my room on fire. They are wearing youthgroup t-shirts and missing whole weeks of school to go on mission trips to Mexico. They talk about their summer week in Uganda or Haiti. They cringe when I use the term “Jesus Myth” to explain how the hero journey relates to Jesus. They don’t like it. They don’t cringe when they say something mean to the kid without any friends, or when they say something terrible to someone on Facebook. But they cringe when I refer to Jesus as a literary hero in the same vein as Batman. They are on fire, and they want to burn down my whole lesson.
I could be mad at them. I could be, if I wasn’t them once. I cannot imagine the holy wrath I would have poured out onto a teacher who dare call my Jesus a myth. I cannot imagine the indignant tone I would have used to explain all the proof for a historical Jesus. I am sure I would have given that teacher The Case For Christ for Christmas. I am sure I would have thought I was doing the right thing. I have no idea about my reasons; they were certainly justified in my mind at the time.
I use the student restroom and see “Jesus Loves You” in permanent market on the toilet paper dispenser. Once upon a time I would have praised the Lord for the boldness of that act, done privately and secretly in a bathroom stall. I would have vandalized school property for the Glory of the Lord. Now, I pray for other bold acts to happen at my school. I have spent too many days waiting for one of those Jesus girls to invite the weird kid to be in their group. They never do. I suppose I could be mad at the Jesus girls who don’t invite the weird kid to the project group or the lunch table. But I was that Jesus girl. I never thought about the weird kid either. I was too busy being on fire for Jesus.
Being a teenager is hard. I want us to remeber that as we talk about the crazy evangelical nineties, the strange we did for and because of our fire for the Lord. Being a teenager is hard.
I did some stupid things. I made enemies of a biology teacher who had the nerve to try to teach me the state mandated evolution curriculum. I was unduly offended when my teacher very occasionally dropped a swear. I hated any sex education that wasn’t abstinence only education. I wasn’t quiet about those things. I wanted to be for things, I wanted to be against things, I wanted to be loved, I needed to feel special. I wanted to be worthy.
I wish someone would have told me what I am just learning now. I am special and loved; even when I don’t feel like it, I am worthy. I am for God, and God is love and I don’t have to be against anything. For love is enough. I wish someone would have told me that I won’t regret the abstaining from in Jesus name. But I won’t have to define myself in the things I do and do not do or believe, that I will simply be beloved.
I see the girls who could have been me, in my own room, rolling their eyes when I accidentally drop a swear. I want to tell them so many things, about life, and love, and God. But right now, they need to be on fire. It makes them feel safe. They need to be for things, against things.
I just pray that no one gets burned.
This is part of Addie Zierman’s synchroblog for When We Were On Fire which I got to read early and cannot reccomend highly enough. You can buy it today here. Keep your eyes open on my blog, I am giving a copy away to celebrate my birthday at the end of the month.