My daughter is going into sixth grade this year, and as such, has graduated from Sunday School to youth group at our local church. She’s been watching her brother go on Wednesday nights for the past few months, and determined that the universe was pitted against her in the unfair irony of it all. He didn’t even like going, but he got to enjoy the pizza, candy, soda and fun while she got to stay home and load the dishwasher. Oh the pouting that commenced each week as we dragged our son to church and she was left behind.
My daughter is a super extrovert, (think social butterfly on crack) who loves unicorns and glitter and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. My son is 100% the opposite in every way and detests the chaotic social gathering known as “youth group”. In her mind, all the fun was being wasted on a party pooper and her exclusion from this activity left her permanently scarred with loneliness for life. (Drama queen is an understatement) So when she got to go to youth group for the first time a couple of weeks ago, it was like the floodgates of heaven opened up in our home. Her excitement was infectious, and I felt like one proud mama for raising a kid (one outta two is better than none) who was excited about church.
Her first time seemed to go ok. When I picked her up she mostly talked about the pizza. It seemed she wasn’t as thrilled as I’d expected, but maybe she was just tired.
The next Wednesday rolled around, and she seemed apprehensive about going, which for her, was odd. She didn’t say anything though, so I tried not to read too much into it. The next week, I told the kids we were eating dinner early because of youth group, and there was silence. Then a heavy sigh, and my daughters normally energetic voice wearily asking, “Do I have to go?”
I expected this attitude from my son, so his complaints and arguments about going each week fell on deaf ears. I know, I know, worst mom ever. Force my kid to go to church and then ignore his legitimate concerns about it – great parenting. To be fair, for his own good I sometimes have to push him out of his comfort zone a bit. Don’t judge me.
But my social butterfly? Who literally loves everyone? Who becomes besties with every living creature she meets? She didn’t want to go?
Halle is the type of person who gets along with everyone, from the most hardened and crotchety of souls to the meek and outcast. She loves everyone, and everyone loves her. It’s one of her gifts. She lifts people up, holding them to her high standard of kindness just by her sparkle. So at church, she felt so uncomfortable with the unkind words that she didn’t want to go? It’s just not like her. Halle will keep a straight face with a broken arm if it means having the opportunity to make a new friend. It takes something crazy for her to want to stay home.
Red flags raised and mama bear ready to hunt, I asked her why she didn’t want to go. She told me the same thing my as my son.”The kids are mean and disrespectful and they make fun of me.”
She told me how the girls made fun of her as she asked for prayer for her Papa who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She ignored them and talked to a different group of girls who told her she looked poor and made fun of the doughnut shaped purse she got for her birthday (which she loves and which was not cheap). Again, ignoring the negativity she put on a happy face but became upset when the girls were making fun of one of the workers. They were saying the woman, who by the way was an adult volunteering her time for these kids, was a loser who looked like she worked at McDonald’s and probably still lived with her parents. Sticking up for her made them angry, and my daughter, the social butterfly, sat alone in a room with hundreds of kids while the girls whispered about her and went in groups to the bathroom giggling as they gossiped about her to anyone who would listen.
She had never experienced the cruelty of middle school girls and it bothered me to no end that she suffered this disappointment in the house of God, with worship leaders singing praises to our Lord only feet away.
As an adult it made me question the leadership and the church we go to entirely. Youth group was a generally positive experience for me, and it brings tears to my eyes to know that these words, spoken by snotty 12 year olds will forever taint my daughter’s first experience with pain.
We forget the power they hold. Words from a mere child had me wanting to run to a new church with a “better” youth group. Imagine the weight those kinds of words carry in the heart the non-believer.
In my angry brooding over the whole situation I felt God speak to me. Don’t fret. The power of words to destroy and bring pain is a threat, yes. But I am greater. My words of healing and life hold such great power, the influence of destructive words in my presence are nothing more than a dandelion seed blowing in the wind. It’s effect are carried far and wide, but its impact small. What can a dandelion do to a child of God?
So I thought about dandelions seeds and exactly what they could do. Do they cause pain? No. Just as Satan’s power over me is just an illusion, so is the dandelion seed just a ghost of a weed, blown away by the slightest breeze.
What dandelion seeds will do, however, is spread like wildfire. Dandelions are weeds. They can take over anything if left unchecked. Just like destructive, negative words. They spread, like a weed, choking out everything good, taking over anywhere they are left to flourish. Even the Church.
Luckily, we have a God whose Word is not only the ultimate weed killer, but who happens to be a master landscaper, an artist whose masterpiece is the garden of life. Rest assured, no dandelion is going to take over the blossoming beauty he has carefully designed and planted.
My favorite flowers are Birds of Paradise. They are gorgeous, commanding attention, bright, colorful, vibrant, and unique. Put a dandelion next to one, and the mere comparison is like a joke. It can’t compete.
Our words have power. They can be dandelions, or beautiful exotic flowers. We can use our words to rampantly spread negativity and hate like a weed. We can choose to hurt, to be a tool of Satan to bring pain and disappointment to the world, ultimately calling the wrath of the Weed Killer upon ourselves.
Our words can be Birds of Paradise. With boldness and power far more inspiring than any weed, we can use our words to bring life, encouragement, and healing into every area of our lives. Our home, our church, our workplace, our school. We can be part of a glorious landscaped masterpiece, or a worthless infesting weed that is easily destroyed.
My daughter knows the words of those girls are like dandelions. Puny, weak, easily plucked and forgotten. She wants to be a Bird of Paradise, choosing to speak life, love and joy wherever she goes. She wants to sparkle.
So do I.
As you go about your day, think about the words you speak. To your barista, to the clerk at the grocery store, to your co-workers, to your spouse. Do they destroy, or carry the sweet aroma of an exotic flower? Do they spread hate, or hope?
Choose your words carefully. Choose to speak love today.