My foolish high school self.

Facebook friends are the most awkward “friendships” out there. I remember sixth grade old me friending everybody because that is what you do as an eleven-year-old, I guess. “Hello person that I’ve never talked to but I have seen in our middle school hallways…we are Facebook friends now…even though I have no intention of messaging you on it.” That was my experience. Raise your hand if you forgot someone existed until Facebook gave you a little notification that it’s their birthday? Please tell me it is not only me with my hand raised. In fact, I would be relieved if you barely remembered me. Let’s just all forget what I wore in middle school and high school.

Go check right now, who’s birthday is it? Regardless of whose it is, I think we all feel special when someone acknowledges our birthday. At least I would assume so, I’m a big words of affirmation gal and so I am writing this with that bias. It should be known that I am also writing during a time where we live in a pandemic so if I am honest, I am missing human interaction. It was at some point during this existing COVID timeframe where I decided to take the extra thirty seconds to check Facebook, see who was celebrating their special day, and then wish them a happy birthday. I say “I decided” but honestly, God gets the glory for that. It was something that was put on my heart, “Take initiative and reach out.” Take that as a challenge; wish your Facebook friend a “happy birthday”.

Expanding this further, who says it’s socially unacceptable to reach out to the individuals in high school that were “too cool & popular”? I should not let my silly adolescent thoughts get in the way of connecting and celebrating with people. That intimidating girl who knew all the answers and got accepted into med school? Congratulate her. The kid from your sixth period who recently got engaged? Comment on that Instagram post. The coworker that recently had a kid? Say something. I do not think it is nearly as awkward as we make it. At least, it does not need to be. I don’t care if you both just drifted apart; it can’t hurt to celebrate. It can’t hurt to acknowledge. It bothers me that my insecurities kept me from connecting with others. I know that’s typical high school, but still, it did not have to be. I know this post is not anything profound but maybe that’s why I feel the need to share. I missed the obvious.

This has been on my mind as I have been thinking more about God’s inviting nature. I’ve been studying the life of Jesus through the book of Mark and recently I ran into this passage:.

13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:13-17

When it comes to studying the Bible, it is essential to understand the context of what is happening, the implications, motives, and the time frame. After reading the Bible with its full and needed context, I then upon reflection think about what this all means in and for my life. When Jesus ate with sinners, it was culturally awkward and frowned upon to associate with the unwanted, yet Jesus showed undeniable truth, abounding grace, and copious hospitality towards others. Am I calling you unwanted? Absolutely not. Am I calling you a sinner? You bet your butt I am, but only because I am just as sinful if not more (Romans 3:23). We are all sinful which makes the death on the cross so significant. Jesus died for our sins so that we can be saved by faith in the resurrection of Christ and the understanding that Jesus is God. The Christian faith is so much deeper and wider than Christmas and Easter. You’ve seen this world, we long for a Savior.

I regret not being as welcoming as Jesus is. I wish I could have ignored the adolescent cliques and social hierarchy that forms when you stuff a handful of developing students in a school together. What would it have looked like if I took the time to invest in the people that I did not normally talk to? What would it have looked like if I treated people in the way Jesus did?

Let’s be honest it is quite pathetic to walk around in pity as I reflect back on my teenage years, so I will stop like a mature twenty-two-year-old. Instead though, as I mentioned earlier, reaching out to others does not need to feel strange now. Though I missed my chance to connect with you then in middle school, I am grateful for the social media platforms that exist. You are far worth the five seconds it takes to wish you a happy birthday. Of course, moving forward and beyond high school and college, I am reminded of the intentionality of Jesus and His inviting character. I am reminded to pursue that as I continue my daily faith journey. How can I be inviting? How can I be filled with love, grace & truth? Who can I reach out to today?

According to Dr. Thom Rainer’s book, The Unchurched Next Door, 82 percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited. Only 2 percent of church-going people ever invite someone to church in a given year. My unchurched friends, would you attend if invited? I am curious. Let me talk to my Christian readers, what would it look like if we invited more people to church? I ask this yet I can count the number of people I invited to church on one hand and I’ve been a Christian for 15ish years. I wonder the work that Jesus could do if we invited the unbelieving to learn about the gospel. We are the hands and feet after all. In a time of hurt, pain, brokenness, and suffering in our world, I wonder what could happen if they saw the hope that is presented in Jesus?

Yet before we do, it starts with us building relationships with one another. It starts with reaching out. It starts with connection. It starts with observing the inviting nature of Jesus and living it out. I do not think it needs to be awkward to comment “I love your hair!” on that Instagram post. I do not think it needs to be awkward to message “Hey, wishing you well.” I do not think it needs to be as weird as societal norms make it out to be. I wonder the work the Holy Spirit could do if we embodied the intentionality and inviting nature of Jesus.

I’m just a college student that reads her Bible. These are just some thoughts I have had while reading the Gospel of Mark. I hope you are doing well. Thank you so much for reading and may God get all the glory. I love you all.

Then he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15

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