At church this Sunday, there was this girl. I don’t know her at all. Beautiful and radiant, young and smiling. She was getting baptized.
I always have this heart-in-my-throat-moment when I hear the story of a teenager being baptized. The overwhelming hope that this will stick for them, that they truly know of the Jesus that Loves, that this will be something that gives them peace and hope in their future. My silent prayers go up each time. “May she fight to grow in her faith, may she stumble here and there but find You as her stronghold in the end, may she know that even in the darkest moment You have not abandoned her, give her peace and love and put support around her.” The teenagers just hit me, every time.
But this sweet, beautiful girl – as she told her story – it was all I could do not to sob. I teared up listening to her and wanted to reach out and hold her. Which, quite frankly, would have been super awkward. My husband reached out and squeezed my hand as I fought to keep it together. Her story was that she had been raised in church but at some point, found herself depressed and anxious, hurting herself and no longer wanting to live. Her parents recognized something was wrong and got her into counseling. Eventually, during that counseling, she realized that she needed a real relationship with God.
My throat gets tight every time I hear of someone battling what I’ve battled, but especially when they are young. I close my eyes and feel the burning behind them and my cheeks flush as I fight back a constriction in my chest so strong I forget to breathe for a second. I open my eyes and take a deep shuddering breath, blinking back the tears. Tears of understanding, empathy, connection, sorrow, and pride. I wonder if she had someone tell her she was beautiful and worthy and loved by God. I wonder if she was afraid to tell her Christian friends, or if she had questioned her place in church. I wonder how long she lived, broken and shattered and hurting, before help found her. I hope not long. I wish not at all, but I pray it wasn’t but for a minute. I wonder at how strong she must be to get up and share her story, one so young who has fought through so much. And that constriction in my chest bursts open in pride at this girl who I don’t know. Tears and pride and sorrow and love for this young lady who will never know me.
And I’m so proud and relieved to attend a church that doesn’t shy away from hard topics, from reality. A church that doesn’t shame counseling but rather actually works to help people get into the counseling they need. The story she shared did not say if she ever sought out medication, if she still sees that counselor, if, if if. . .and it doesn’t matter to me.
She needed help in the form of counseling AND Jesus. She found both.
I also know that she is only one of a pandemic of teenagers battling with this. Battling alone and hidden. Afraid and ashamed. And I don’t have answers to WHY this is such a rising issue with our teens, or exactly how we go about helping all of them. I can get overwhelmed thinking about trying to find big group solutions to these types of problems. I hope there are smarter people than me working on all of those things.
But what I do know – is that it is in my power to keep speaking out and reaching out. Having the awkward conversations and posting the awkward blogs in the hopes that its reaching someone. We all can reach out. We can all respond with love and grace when someone reaches out to us. We can all help to end the stigma.
As my pastor is known to say, we can do for one what we wish we could do for everyone.
And if this young beautiful girl reminds you of you, if you are just like this Untitled Girl, or like me. . .. please know that you are not alone. Your depression, anxiety, secret you haven’t shared, pain you’ve hidden – these don’t keep you from God, and they don’t drown out Hope. It might feel like it – but it is completely untrue. God has no Untitled Girls, no Unknowns or Unloveds.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1
Reach out. Find help. You are worthy and loved by God.