By Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com
"Then God looked over all he had made, and saw that it was very good!" Genesis 1:31 NLT
Middle school. It's a rite of passage most of us would never go back and re-do. Nobody feels cool in middle school - not even the self-proclaimed or assumed cool kid crowd. It's one of the times in our lives when everything changes at once. The time we need to be reminded of what doesn't change. The first thing God said about all he created was, "It's good." After He created human beings, He proclaimed, "It's very good!" Before lifting a finger or breathing a single breath, middle schoolers need to know that God proclaimed them, "Very good!"
As parents, mentors, leaders, guardians, teachers, and coaches, we have the unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of middle schoolers. Keeping up with the rapidly developing mind of a middle schooler is like trying to keep them in the same shoe size for more than a month. We're never completely able to rest assured knowing we've covered all the bases …but these notes of encouragement can really help our kids.
What Does the Bible Say About Who They Are?
"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. "Psalm 139:14 NLT
Wonderfully complex is a perfect way to describe human beings, not just middle schoolers. God has not made any two people who have lived exactly alike …not even identical-looking twins are exact in every way. That's not all. Our purpose in life is unique. No one else can be you or do what you were meant to do. We can have similar career paths and much in common with other people, but no one is exactly you. Middle schoolers often feel lost in the crowd but are the opposite. The Apostle Paul wrote:
"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'" Romans 8:15 NLT
We are all adopted children of God, meaning we are royalty, set to inherit His Kingdom!
What Does it Mean to be Made in God's Image?
"So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27 NLT)
We are known, fully, and loved completely. "The term image of God can be seen as describing the ways in which man is different from all other created beings," the ESV Bible explains, "It describes how humans resemble God in their ability to think, to communicate, to understand right and wrong, to be creative, and to experience relationships with God and with one another." God knows you right where you're at. He's not disappointed in you, nor does He have unreachable expectations for you. He loves you. …for you. He enjoys walking alongside you as you discover who you are: His adopted child, His beloved, His remarkable, unique, and fantastic creation. No one knows you better than God …not parents, best friends, nor a single soul can come close to His complete knowledge, love, and acceptance of you. Here are some highlights of the Voice paraphrase of Genesis 1:26-28:
"God: 'Now let Us conceive a new creation-humanity-made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth …' So God did just that. He created humanity in His image …" I make you trustees of My estate, so care for My creation …"
What are we Supposed to Do as God's Children?
"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?" Esther 4:14 NLT
"For such a time as this." We may not be set in place as queens to save our people like Esther or a palace authority like Joseph to protect his family and an entire people from famine …but God has big plans for our simple steps of obedience. I doubt Esther, Joseph, Moses, or King David could ever have predicted the stories of their lives before they happened. Nor can we. As God's children, we have a different world perspective than others. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we no longer live for ourselves as the rest of the world does. Maybe you notice the shy kid and ask them to sit with you. Or remember everyone's name and say hello in the hallways at school. Do you realize how much those simple things mean to others and God? We are created to serve and love each other. Jesus said, love your neighbor as yourself. He also said, love your enemy and pray for them! It's still counter-cultural to this day …and extremely hard! But when we choose to live the way God made us live, we experience supernatural peace and joy!
How do We Know Who We Are Supposed to Help?
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." John 15:26 ESV
Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit when we turn our lives to Him. The Spirit helps us understand what we read in the Bible and notice things in life we wouldn't otherwise see. He also nudges our hearts when we're about to get into trouble, reminding us of what we know to be right. It's like having a superpower when we are in tune with who and Whose we are. We can notice when others need encouragement and find the strength to endure things we couldn't do without Him. We can trust if God puts people in our paths, it's on purpose. Pray and ask Him why they are there and how you can help. Sometimes, people are put in place to reach out to us!
Where do We Get the Strength and Knowledge to do What God Calls Us to Do?
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
Moses led God's people through the Red Sea, yet he was afraid to speak publicly! King David killed the giant Goliath with a slingshot, yet he later found himself hiding in a cave from the murderous King Saul. The Bible contains countless accounts of God doing amazing things through flawed and fearful people! But in Christ, we have a source of strength even those brave Biblical greats didn't have. The Holy Spirit strengthens and teaches us, but there is more. What seems like a bunch of old stories of old people is a living book. The Bible is alive and active, and when you read it every day, you will be blown away at how it applies to your daily life. That's how God meets you right where you're at. He'll help you understand what you read and how to apply it to your life practically. That's how we build the strength and knowledge to do what God calls us. One day at a time, for the rest of our lives.
How Does All of This Affect Our Friendships?
The Apostle John was Jesus' earthly best friend. We know this because he referred to himself as the one Jesus loved. During the Last Supper, John leaned up against Jesus. John was there at the cross when all the other disciples had left. When we know who Jesus is and Whose we are, we are better friends to others. We look for and notice the people God has placed in our lives. The love of God propels us to love others selflessly. John had everything to lose by following and associating with Jesus. Instead, John chose to focus on Jesus. Middle school friendships change a lot, and that's ok. Everyone grows at a different rate, faith included. But like John, we can make the daily choice to focus on Jesus and trust Him to teach us how to surround ourselves with people who will build us up, not tear us down.
Following Jesus teaches us how to love and be loved. Middle School is a time when we are hardest on ourselves. Remember, when you look around your school, everyone is hard on themselves. Mean people are usually hurting the most. Keep that in mind and follow Jesus even when it's hard. Speak the truth …in love. Defend the kid who's getting picked on. Find something nice to say to someone who sits alone or look an insult right in the eye and tell them how much that hurts. Stop to say something nice to a friend, teacher, coach, sibling, or parent. Seek to see people, and you will be seen, too. These are things every middle schooler needs to know. Let's make sure the ones God has placed in our lives hear and understand.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/gradyreese
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at megbucher.com. She is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team at Salem Web Network. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.