When I was younger, I played softball. Geared in tight spandex with a hot pink aluminum bat, I was more concerned with how my hair looked in the god-awful hat I had to wear than my ERA. (Don’t be impressed that I know what that stands for; I grew up in a family that lived and breathed baseball. I even wanted to marry Mark Grace, but that is another story.) So, there I was, an awkward preteen, too tall for her spandex and too young for contacts, trying to “fit in” with the athletes. Needless to say, my athletic career as a softball player did not go far. Yet, the memory I carry most vividly from those days on the dusty field is who was in the stands.
My grandfather came to every game (that is the memory I want to keep) with his cowbell. Yes, a cowbell. He was infamous at the local high school for bringing that same bell to the football games. He would ring it loud so everyone would know whose back he had. I knew without a doubt whether I caught the ball or struck out every time up at bat that bell would ring. People would stare in annoyance while others would cheer along with him. Either way, I knew I mattered. That I was enough.
These past two years have been gut-wrenching in the parenting department. When you find out from school officials that your beautiful girl has been mutilating her thighs under your own roof, it opens a door of anguish you never knew you could feel. We later found it was because she was being bullied day in and day out. She didn’t want to bother us with it because we were also dealing with a newfound diagnosis of our youngest daughter. She took it upon herself to “feel” what she needed to feel. Knowing that we, her parents, were overwhelmed with doctor’s appointments all over the city and medication that never seemed to work, she, in her middle school way, thought she was “handling it.” And I, as a mother, knew in that moment sitting across from the school dean, watching her show me my daughter’s deep wounds, that I had failed her. I had not been paying attention and listening to the cues she was giving.
That winter, we decided after attempts at counselors who told her this was “normal” that perhaps we would take another angle at this. (Side note, do not ever tell a grieving parent that their child carving themselves is normal. If I would not have gotten in trouble or perhaps arrested, I would have lept across the therapist’s office and kicked her in the gut. I didn’t. But the mama bear in me wanted to). Instead, my husband and I decided to call upon “our people” — the women in our lives who have stood in the gap for us on numerous occasions, because we all know it takes a village — and asked them for feedback on how to help her best. One of my very best friends showed up. She became her mentor, pouring into her, listening to her, hearing her. She discovered my daughter had a talent for basketball and encouraged her to try playing. She met her where she was at and opened her eyes to more that was lying within. She took her to basketball games, fed her (cause we all know that is the key to a middle schoolers soul), and showed up. She showed up for her games, her injuries, her life. She showed up.
I think we are all called to be a people who show up — to stand at the top of the bleachers and ring that cowbell the loudest. To be that teacher that shows up. To pour into that student that continues to act out. They are acting out because they need someone to show up. To be that student pastor that shows up to kids’ events. To cheer them on outside of the church walls. To enter into their mess of a life and say, “ I am not leaving.” To be the friend that forgives lavishly and pours mercy over others like it’s the only way to live. To be the coach that shows up. To set aside your frustrations and expectations and believe that each child on your team deserves to know they are somebody. To be the parent that shows up when everything in you wants to hide and not listen to another “recorder” concert in your living room. To be the spouse that shows up and says no matter what I believe in “us.”
I think this is what Jesus taught us — to be people who show up. To be the ones who see the mess and still enter in. To know that we will probably get wounded and hurt, but in the end, it was worth it — knowing the ones we are cheering for need it more than we need to be comfortable.
The world is loud and full of lies. It is full of bullies, telling us we are not enough. Telling us we must do things on our own, that we don’t need anyone else. That if we hide and handle it ourselves that somehow that makes us stronger. When in reality we are strongest when we show our mess to those we trust the most.
This is Jesus. He is a God of second chances. He is a God of hope and healing. He brought others into our lives so we could hear the cowbells again.