You are accepted (or, I'm married to a caveman) - JJ Landis
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You are accepted (or, I’m married to a caveman)

The ceiling fan did not make a dent in the heat. It whirred enough to fill in the occasional conversational pause, but not much more. The backs of my thighs were glued to the wooden bench. When I adjusted my position, the sticky finish peeled off onto my skin with a ripping noise and left brown stain on my legs.

 

We sat zombie-like around the small living room of a modest cottage that stood in contrast behind a Sandals hotel. I bet the resort guests were not in want of the air-conditioning we craved. When I looked around the circle of undead faces, I saw nine high school students, two college students, six adults, and my three kids.

 

For four hours we stayed. For four hours, we renamed our group members.

 

We had all been transformed during a week of living and serving together. Our assignments included playing with, feeding, and diapering orphans; painting walls; repairing roads; constructing a building; washing dishes and windows and vehicles; and so much more that seems implausible now that I’m looking back. Where did we get all the hours and energy?

 

This youth group with the current leadership has been together for a while now so we weren’t strangers when we set off on our grand Jamaican adventure. And most of our families are intertwined as Mennonites tend to be. So, our new names were birthed from qualities and actions witnessed during our seven nights in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but also from what we knew before we even left the runway in Philadelphia.

 

Our new names were written on small stones for us to keep for always.

 

Some labels that emerged for different individuals that night: Joy, Loyal, Abe Lincoln, Humbly Determined, Timothy, Hospitable, Integrity, Billy Graham.

 

My husband Lee was christened Caveman by the boys on our team. Because of his adventurous spirit and his ability to grow facial hair.

 

My 12-year-old was Brave and Unique.

My 10-year-old was Daniel Boone and Explorer.

My 7-year-old was Precious and Sensitive Heart .

 

Spot on. All of them!

 



Alex is asleep behind the couch.

When midnight approached, my three kids were long asleep – Es and Em were in their beds; Al was on the floor behind the couch. After every other person in the room had been given a new label, finally it was my turn. (It was either a case of “they saved the best for last” or “I was the last one chosen for the team” – I’m not sure.)

 

My new name: Accepting.

It is an honor to be thought of as accepting by those kids! If they had called me Loving or Joyful or Adventurous or Fun or Prayerful or Prepared or Compassionate or most anything else, I wouldn’t have been as touched. Especially since I’m not loving or joyful or adventurous or fun or much of anything.

 

But “accepting.” I like that.

 

I felt like I won an award when I received my rock with the scrawled black letters spelling the word.

 

My family.

My husband pointed out the irony of this title for me. That my past has made me what I am. A big struggle for me as a kid and teen and young adult (and well pretty much always until three or four years ago) was my insecure feelings of being unacceptable. When my mom ended her life, I swallowed the rejection from her and let it sour every relationship. My barriers were impenetrable.

 

My armor insured there was no way I could or would ever be accepted, at least not for who I really was. I was good at making myself acceptable in others’ eyes (party girl, cool kid with the fake ID, headbanger, swooning girlfriend, martial artist, teacher, missionary.) I was a short order cook serving up the person I thought others wanted.

 

Anything but the real me, because the real me was wretchedand unlovable.

 

God sees through all our lies to who we really are. Even if you are a mess, he knows what made you that way and has grace by the bucketful to spill over you. He accepts you. He does.
 
 
 
You can’t lie to him and once you realize that, you will be free.

 

I love the youth so much for letting me be me and letting me have a front row seat to their displays of integrity, maturity, bravery, compassion. I am a flea compared to the mighty young men and women who are emerging from our youth group.
 
 
 
But I know they have doubts and fears sometimes that they don’t and won’t measure up. Maybe I can play a little part in loving and accepting them unconditionally as they find their way to God’s acceptance.

These people are God’s.

 

1Comment
  • jillianw04
    Posted at 08:38h, 12 August Reply

    What a poignant blog post! The writing is beautiful, as always. But it really made me think about what name I would receive. What name has God already given me? Forgiven…that’s for sure. But, the name might also point me in the direction I am longing to travel. Thank you for sharing this part of your mission trip. Such an encouraging post. And I’ve known you for what? 15 years? In addition to ACCEPTING, I would call you LOYAL FRIEND!

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