I'm currently doing a Beth Moore Bible study with my small group called "Believing God," and it's just fantastic. This week's homework has us going through the first 15 or so years of our lives and remembering different "GodStops" along the way. Everybody in our group comes from such different backgrounds that it can't help but make for interesting (and powerful) group discussion...
Anyway, today I had to think through ages 10-15 in my life, which wasn't necessarily pleasant at first because that meant middle school and a lot of uncomfortable memories. But then I remembered something that happened in 7th grade, which I will share with you starting...NOW.
Once upon a time in the 7th grade, I went to a private school. This particular school had some very nice staff and some very not-so-nice students...but I suppose that is the case in just about every middle school. This school also had a rule that no one, except for kindergartners, could wear shorts.
Now, this school is in Charleston, SC. And come about mid-March, the temperature can rise to about 90 degrees or so mid-day. AND they had a rule that we had to go outside for recess every day. So you can imagine the misery for all of us, 1st grade and up, during April and May. You may be saying to yourself, "Why didn't the girls wear skirts?" Well, I was rather tomboyish in style those days and would rather have boiled in the sun than wear a skirt...
So I decided to investigate the history of this ridiculous rule. After I found out that it had been established on faulty (in my opinion) logic, I decided to do what I could to remedy this situation. In other words, I decided to become an activist for students' rights. After talking it over with my parents, my mom showed me how to write a petition and suggested that I get my fellow students, who joined me in my complaints, to sign it. So I drafted a petition for the teachers to allow us to wear shorts during the hot spring and summer months, while agreeing that we would keep them at a modest length at all times.
One fateful day (I think it was a Thursday), I took my petition to school. I decided not to show any teachers what I was doing until after I had obtained a sufficient number of signatures. I didn't want them to stop the democratic process before we had the chance to be heard. So I went around between classes and during recess, and the number of signatures grew.
However, a few girls, who had been excited to add their names at first, suddenly feared that I was being subversive and was going to get them all in trouble. One by one, they tried to talk me out of showing anyone the petition. One girl in particular snatched the petition out of my hand and scratched her name off the list, tearing the paper in the process. Very upsetting.
Finally, after realizing they weren't going to stop me, one of them went and told the teacher. I may as well have been throwing a coup d'etat by all the fuss being made. I was so upset by this Judas-like betrayal that I ran to the bathroom in tears. Several friends came to comfort me, saying I was doing a great thing - "Don't give up!" they said. But it was too late - the authorities took over.
My teacher, Mrs. Dickerson, made me stand in the hallway with her while she called my mom. I have to stop here and explain that, as a child, whenever I thought I had done something wrong, I would start crying uncontrollably. I hated being in trouble, no matter what the reason. So by this point, I was pretty much sobbing. Mrs. Dickerson handed me the phone, and I remember being surprised as my mother almost shouted into the phone, "Your dad and I are SO PROUD of you, Sarah! WOW!"
What? I was in trouble, and my mom was proud of me? I was amazed.
I had to take my petition to the principal of the school. In retrospect, I think both she and my teacher were trying not to laugh at the scenario, especially when they saw the issue the petition addressed. Then my mother came and picked me up early, carrying cake and chocolate eclairs. We went home and celebrated as a family. My parents were so proud that I had stood up for something, that I had done it honorably, and that I had even suffered for the cause - no matter what the result was. A day that had promised to be traumatic had instead turned out to be monumental in a very different way.
So what happened? Well, the very last week of school, in late May, the entire school was allowed to wear shorts if they chose. And while I ended up not going to that school in 8th grade, I got wind that there had been a permanent change in their dress code. They decided to go with uniforms for their students...but navy-blue shorts would now be included as an option.
And in my parents' support that day, I got a glimpse of God's pleasure that will stay with me forever...all because of shorts.