He sat there staring at the white board with a blank expression bordering on rage. His eyes were unblinking and slightly moist. He slowly moved the dry erase marker back and forth between his fingers. A deep sigh and then a sense of resignation as he capped the marker and leaned back in his chair.
She stood there with anger in her eyes. Arms folded and a stance that was begging for a fight. When she looked at you there was an emptiness in her gaze that cut through you and left you feeling heartbroken. The hurt, the pain, and the anguish were almost tangible. She never made it to the table.
The two boys sat at the table with the now all too common look of confusion. They had no idea what to write. They didn’t matter. Nobody would care if they were gone and never to return, so they thought.
These scenes were played out over and over again as student after student arrived to participate in the #WhyYouMatter campaign at our local middle school.
There were other scenes too. Scenes of smiles and laughter. Groups of kids easily writing down why they matter and joyfully posing for the camera, alone and in groups. One group of girls bounced in and immediately wrote, “I matter because life is LIT!” There was so much joy and happiness in them, they embraced a girl who didn’t have anything to write and they left together giggling.
What struck me is how few of these kids have ever had anyone speak life to them.
Then the teachers and other adults in the building arrived to do the same. Many of them struggled.
Many of the adults struggled to answer the question, “Why do you matter?”
What struck me is how few of these adults have ever had anyone speak life to them.
When was the last time you had someone speak life to you? I’m serious. Who was it? When did you hear from someone that you matter? Who looked you in the eyes and said, “You are loved. You are needed. My life is different and better because you’re here. I love you.”
When was the last time you spoke life to someone else? I’m serious. Who was it? When did you tell someone that they matter to you? Who have you looked in the eyes and said, “You are loved. You are needed. My life is different and better because you’re here. I love you.”
Every day I left that school with a mix of deep emotions. Joy over seeing kids speak life into one another. Happiness when kids knew who they were and knew that their lives mattered to people. But also deep heartbreak over the ones who couldn’t speak or hear love in their lives.
There is as deep and abiding need in our lives to know we are loved. There is also a need to know that we love another.
Once again I am confronted with the reality that we are image bearers of God. We are like him in real ways. When we first encounter God in the Bible it is in creation and he is speaking. As image bearers we have voices. Our words have power, tremendous power. This is a sacred power and too often we either forget about this power or we use it unwisely. We can speak words of life or death. These words are chosen by us and leveraged by us.
Do you know what else we can do? Not speak. Sometimes silence is golden. Other times silence is causes pain. I think many of the people, children and adults, who didn’t know why they matter is not because someone said something mean or hurtful to them. I think much of it is the result of people not having said anything. They felt like ghosts, they were living their lives as apparitions that nobody noticed enough to even be mean to. Our silence can be the most hurtful words we speak.
We must speak life into this world. Who will you tell today? Who will you look at and say, “You matter. You matter because I care about you. You matter because I love you.”