How the Unpopular Girl Taught Me Jesus’ Love

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I’m a therapist. My first client for the day was 16 years old.

Her year has been one of bone-aching loneliness as she’s tried to find her place among her peers, hang on to her values, and not seem too weird. Her high-school résumé lacked a lot of the achievements the adolescent world requires (and maybe it’s not just the adolescent world). She isn’t popular. She doesn’t wear trendy fashions. She’s never been asked on a date. She doesn’t even have Snapchat on her phone. Her reputation is as “a Goody-Two-Shoes” only the teachers like. She cried every time she told me about her incredibly painful high-school story and asked how she could change it. I encouraged her to be true to who God made her to be, and yet I knew those are words adults say when we don’t really know what to say.

Her visit to see me on this day was right after the second semester of the school year started. She walked into my office with joy and confidence. If I didn’t know better, I would think she was voted prom queen. I suspected she was just relieved to be halfway out of the hell of high school. I was wrong.

Danielle explained to me that she’d decided to do something with all her grief and pain over being unfairly judged and excluded.

God writes our true résumé, and he will reveal it in every moment, every conversation, every interaction.

She wrote a letter to many of her classmates before the Christmas break, telling them what they meant to her and how she would be praying for them over the break. Part of me wanted to applaud her endeavor and another part wanted to shout, “No! You’re just going to make yourself more of a target. Maybe you should be less of yourself and not more.” (I knew that didn’t sound very wise or counselor-like, so I just silently waited to hear the rest of the story.)

Danielle told me about one letter she wrote to a girl who came out as gay to her classmates the first semester. Her announcement resulted in a lot of teasing, and her parents kicked her out of their home. Danielle explained that she congratulated this girl on her courage—and especially for telling her when she knew Danielle didn’t agree with her values about sexuality.

I thanked her for telling me, even though she knows I’m a Christian, and I wanted her to know that I want to love her and support her. I don’t want her to think God hates her, because I think God especially loves those of us who are the ‘unfortunate ones’ in high school. I told her I asked my parents, and they agreed she could stay with us if she ever needed a place to stay.

Tears welled in my eyes as my respect for this young woman grew. She sat up a little straighter and pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. She gingerly handed it to me—conveying its inestimable value. Truly, it had been bought with a great price.

I read the note, scrawled in blue ink, blotted in places with what I suspect were tear stains.

Danielle, no one has ever written me an actual letter before!!! Your letter is the best thing that happened to me this year. I also want you to know I don’t hate God and I don’t think he hates me. Because of you. I might not stay at your house, but I definitely want to eat at your table in the cafeteria!!!!

In that very moment, I knew how Jesus would answer if anyone asked who was greatest in high school: “Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 18:3-4, NIV). For a little child, everything comes by grace, and they have no résumé. “Become like one of them!” says Jesus.

Danielle’s incarnational love could silence all the trolls on social media and heal the cancer of fragmentation. She astounded me with the living reminder that God writes our true résumé, and he will reveal it in every moment, every conversation, every interaction. And the day will come when he will read our résumés—which will actually be our stories. I long for mine to sound something like this:

“You gave me a cup of cold water.”
“I was hungry, and you shared your lunch.”
“I was the stranger, the loner at your school; you came and sat with me.”

Unexpected grace invites us to let God write our résumés:

You’re blessed the very moment when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought, and everyone—the liars, addicts, fools, and totally uncool—feels welcome at your table.

Sharon Hersh
Sharon Hersh

is a licensed professional counselor, an adjunct professor in graduate counseling programs, a sought-after speaker, and the author of several books, including Belonging, from which you have been reading. Follow the link to engage further or to read the first chapters for free.

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