It all started with an innocuous request: “I forgot my gym suit; can I borrow yours?” I’m certain that the idea of 7th and 8th grade boys regularly lending their gym clothes to each other will horrify some of my germaphobic friends. To be honest, I look back on the practice with a bit of consternation. Still, we were kids and kids do things like forget or lose or lend out their gym wear (to those who forgot or lost theirs). Most of the time, it works out and the lender gets them back after their friend’s physical education class, or at least in time for the lender’s next class.
Most of the time.
Mine never came back. The friend who borrowed it was considered to be one of the toughest kids in school…at least that was his reputation. Looking back, I remember how intimidated — how fearful — I was around him. What I can’t remember is if I lent him my gym suit once or if he brought it back a few times. I just remember that I was ready to go to P.E. one day and didn’t have a suit…so I had to run around until I found a friend who would lend me one.
This whole thing went on for a while, for it wasn’t just the tough kid — the one with my suit — that I feared. I feared the physical education teacher who was known for his strict policies and who harbored no excuses for failure to show up in his class without being “dressed out” for activity. That coach was fair, but he was also tough and his zero tolerance policy was enough to keep all of us boys intimidated by him.
I also feared my parents. Those who have heard me talk about them, know that my mom and dad were loving, godly parents. They taught us how to live, both by words and by actions. There was never a doubt that they loved us, but I was a 7th grade boy who was trying to transition from not-quite-an-adult-but-no-longer-a-kid. Most of you know that this is one of the most awkward transitions of life. It is made that much harder because most of us disconnect from our families during this season. James Dobson once described it as being like the space capsules that lost their radio communication with Mission Control as they re-entered earth’s atmosphere. The ground team held their collective breaths for contact to be re-established. That’s pretty much describes parent-child relationships during adolescence.
I feared my parents, because they wouldn’t have wanted me to lend out my gym suit. Those suits had to be paid for and we weren’t a family with loads of extra money to throw around. In addition, they would have wanted me to go to the coach (who intimidated me) and/or to the boy (who intimidated me) to get the suit back. I did neither. I kept borrowing another suit and hiding my problem from my parents.
As an adult, I would have wanted my own child to open up to me about the problem. I would have been happy to help find a solution. I have absolutely no doubt that my own parents would have done the same thing and saved me days and days of fear that I couldn’t borrow a gym suit and would have to face that intimidating teacher.
In the end, my parents did find out. They weren’t happy when we contacted the family of the boy who borrowed my suit and were told that they didn’t know what was going on, plus they had no idea of the whereabouts of my missing gym clothes. We did a short-term investigation of “The Mystery of the Missing Trunks,” but finally had to spring for a whole new suit…which I refused to lend out to anyone. It would have been so much less pain for me if I had gone to my parents in the first place. The mistakes were already made, but I could have been spared the pain and the shame of the cover-up.
Over a half century has passed since that long, grueling season of fear and intimidation, but I can still remember how it felt inside. I have learned in the years since that life can throw you some wild pitches, but you don’t have to live in constant fear of them. Even if you have to face consequences for your own failures, there is One who knows the whole stinky story already. That One has loved you completely since before you emerged from your mother’s womb. It is His perfect love that offers to send your fears far away from you and to mend the broken places in your life.
Do you need to come out of the darkness of your hidden life and bring your crimes into the light of day? It is in the light that you will discover perfect love and your fears will be driven away. “Perfect Love” is the fourth gift we have been given by the One who designed us for joy. Can’t wait to share it with you this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. It’s a perfect weekend to invite a friend who needs encouragement! If you can’t make it, catch the podcast!