Learning to love the tweenage way

Gossiping, excluding, dumping, demeaning, slandering, disparaging. These are all happening in the 4th/5th grade lives of my Bible study girls. I could say these actions are all done to them, but alas, my girls are also the doers. Every Monday, the girls gather on the living room sofas. Every Monday, we learn  more about what it means to love God and love others. But every so often when the drama piles up, I wonder, “are these Bible lessons really making a difference? Are these girls really getting it?” This was just such a Monday when the weight of all the drama bore on me like boulders. We studied the verse, 1 John 4:20 “whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Who here is a liar? Slowly, we all raised our hands. We claim to love God, but we do hateful, hurtful things to those around us, even those we call our friends or family. And out of all the hurt and all the drama of growing up, one young lady shared with us all, “the other day, I was really angry at a friend and wanted to say something mean to her, but started wondering what does it really mean to love God. I know that loving God means loving others, but what does that mean? And then I imagined myself saying to God those mean things that I wanted to say to the friend. As soon as I imagined it, I couldn’t say it. And then I understood what it means to love God: to treat others as I would treat God.” I left Bible study that night not having taught, but having learned so much more about the quiet and steadfast workings of the Holy Spirit and the remarkable young hearts with whom I have the privilege to learn.

-Janice Philips