“Hi Fat Momma,” she said with contempt in her eyes, “Come on Danielle, let’s go play.” Off they went my very first tormentor and a girl I thought was my friend. We were only in kindergarten but that was a glimpse into the type of torment I would endure for most of my school career. Do not get me wrong, I loved school. I liked strict teachers, projects, learning, being the teacher’s pet, and reading. I hated recess and P.E. My peers could not wait for play time. The majority of the time I loathed it and could not wait to get back into the classroom. Recess was a time for excess name calling and isolation, while P.E. was just a more institutionalized way of getting picked last for teams. Yes, I have spent my entire life struggling with my weight. My parents and my pediatrician worked tirelessly to change that but it has been a constant struggle. What resulted from all the bullying (always only verbal) was an extremely sensitive girl. One that was often terrified of new experiences and people because new experiences always ran the risk of being made fun of.
I remember the first time I was old enough to go to church camp. It was only for a long weekend but I was terrified. There would be no safe space if someone decided to make fun of me. My mom and dad talked to me several times and really encouraged me to go. I adamantly refused and then my mom said, “Just try it. If you don’t like it this time, you never have to do it again. Just try it.” I went and ended up going to church camp all the way through high school and even counseling a couple of camps. As terrified as I was, I tried it and church camp BECAME my safe space. Any time any new and frightening opportunity arose, my mom would look at me and say, “Just try it.” “Just try it” is like my mom’s way of saying “I love you and I know you will love doing this.” “Just try it” sent me to church camp, a summer internship away from home, and ultimately, to West Avon Congregational Church. I imagine it wasn’t always easy for my mom to say, “Just try it,” because it meant she had to let me go to grow a little without her. However, if she had never said, “Just try it” I might still be that scared and apprehensive girl.
“Just try it” is never the easiest answer for anything. For children and parents, those three little words may incite panic in the hearts of both parties. It almost always means resistance and, perhaps, a fight. But most often, “just try it,” turns into a transformative and life changing experience. If you don’t like it, you never have to do it again. However, if you don’t try, you will never know what might have been.
I understand that we live in a time and place where church isn’t a priority. I attend a youth ministry workshop monthly, at Yale. Over and over again the presenters remind us that the church is no longer the center of daily life. More often than not, people see themselves as spiritual but not religious. I, myself, have heard people say that by Sunday, they are just too tired and too behind to come to worship. Every time I hear any of this, I think of my mom saying, “just try it.” So if Sunday morning isn’t working in your schedule, bring your youth to MSM or TFG in the evening. Are you unavailable in the evenings? Come to the Lenten Luncheon Series. If it goes well, I will continue to offer a daytime Bible study. Can’t get away during the day? Join our Acts Bible study on Tuesday evenings. Only free once a month? Come to our monthly potlucks. Want to be more involved in Sunday School but are afraid you aren’t “smart enough?” I dare you to just try subbing in a class once and see how awesome you are at it. Are your youth interested but nervous about a week- long mission trip? Encourage them to just try it. If spending a week with me, helping others, is really horrible, promise them they never have to do it again. Does your child attend a school other than Avon and you want them to make stronger friendships at church? Have them come and try being in the April Children’s Musical. I have plenty of room and we would love to have them! Are you great at singing in the shower? Just try one choir practice. If you don’t have fun, you never have to do it again.
See? There are lots of things to just try here at West Avon. In fact, March 2nd, we have a mission trip Open Mic Night at ACC. We have Lenten Luncheon on Mondays, from 11:30-1:00. The evening Bible Study will meet the first and third Tuesdays of the month. The youth will go on their weekend mission trip to Philadelphia March 15-17. The Sunday School will collect food for Gifts of Love during March. I will also be asking people to fill some Easter Eggs for our annual Easter Egg hunt.
We are now in a time of Lent. We are in a time of reflection and contemplation of all the love God continues to show us. Instead of giving up something during these 40 days, why don’t you just try something new? Encourage your whole family to try something new. Giving to God during Lent does not have to mean giving something up. It can also mean trying something new.
Grace and Peace,