I hope someday I can apologize to Melissa Whitson.
Some of my favorite memories as a young teenager come from youth camp. I remember amazing times of worship. I remember being floored by the truth of God. I remember the competition between cabins, in sports and everything else. I remember taking a Japanese cooking class. I don’t know why I took that or why I remember it. But I do remember coming home and attempting to make my sister a stir-fry lunch of pepperoni, other assorted lunchmeat, a few vegetables I found in the frig, and soy sauce. That’s all you really need to make it Japanese, right?
But one of my biggest memories was Sadie Hawkins. It always happened on Thursday at camp. Some time during the day a horn would go off, and then whichever girl tagged a boy, that boy had to take her to dinner that night. And the horn always went off when we were in a big group. It was a beautiful and terrible thing. I had made it all the way through my junior high years without being tagged. I was quite proud. Looking back on it, I know I took off running, but I doubt I was ever actually being chased. Being proud of escaping was much easier than being ashamed of not being wanted. And then we entered high school.
One of the first days of camp that year I had injured my ankle, probably doing something stupid. So I was on crutches all week. There’s something to boost the confidence of an already awkward young man. And there was a new girl there. Her name was Melissa. I was quite taken with her. Somehow word got out that I was interested in her and my friend Brandon came back with the news that she might be interested in me as well. In fact, he had it on good authority that she was planning on tagging me for Sadie Hawkins. The cute girl I liked was going to choose me!
That afternoon we were in the middle of rec, in the middle of a field, when the horn sounded. I was standing there leaning on my crutches, which unbeknownst to the world, I no longer actually needed. I had been mostly recovered for about half a day already. As the horn sounded, I handed the crutches to Brandon and took off running. After all, I had a reputation to uphold. I made it back to my dorm safe and sound with my Sadie Hawkins record still intact.
Only now, years later, can I look back and wonder what it might have been like for Melissa. You’ve been told this boy likes you. He’s obviously injured. But when you go to tag him, he ignores the pain and runs away. It was that important to get away.
I was such an idiot. I only thought of me and not of the damage I could cause. I didn’t think of how it could have hurt her feelings. Mel and I stayed friends through all of high school. Which is better than I deserved. I guess she was both stronger and kinder than I knew.
But looking back on that day, I see a couple of things. One, we long to be pursued. I think we were made that way. We were created to be chased. We want someone to choose us. But I also see another thing: we don’t feel worthy of that pursuit and find it hard to accept.
I was comfortable in the fictitious role I had created. I saw myself as pursued but too fast for the competition. It was a safe place for me. But it was not a good place. Because the whole reason I had created this safe zone was because I had a deep inner desire to be chosen.
I think many of us respond to God in the same way. We have so many reasons why He shouldn’t choose us. Oddly enough, our reasons don’t actually affect God at all. He chooses who He desires. We don’t get to explain it away. Of course, you do have the option of running. But why would you run from the One who loves you perfectly? I think we run because we don’t know how we will change if chosen. We don’t know how to act when we are chosen. We are afraid. Afraid we could do something to screw it up. Afraid that it will turn out not to be true. And so, we keep things the way they were, because at least we know what to do then.
So, someday I hope to apologize to my childhood friend for any hurt I may have caused her. I have to apologize to God daily for how I attempt to escape His pursuit. I know you may be afraid. You have worked so hard to discover your identity, and you don’t know how this will change it. But I have good news. It is better to be caught than to be fast.