On the windswept plains, there’s a crowded gym. A basketball, it smacks, thunk, thunk, thunk on the wooden floor. A ref’s whistle blows. The buzzer sounds, and a group of sweaty boys, they break, then huddle in time out.
The stands are packed. It’s tourney time, and tension’s running high. Go! Fight! Win!
Along the bench down front, the cheerleaders chant and clap, set pyramids and cartwheel their joy. And in the crowd, that girl. Who’s shouting her encouragement, cheering for her team. Until…
Over 30 years later, I remember that night. I can hear the sounds; can almost smell that odd mix of popcorn and sweat that’s found at basketball games. I can see the concession stand. Those bleachers. That gym.
And I can feel the shame.
The shame of being “embarrassing” to someone who mattered. Of being “too loud.” Of being “too much.” Of being–well, different; not like the one who was chiding. The shame of being me.
In all the years since that eighth-grade tourney, I have come to see that what happened that night hurt me deeply. I took the rebuke very personally, and for decades, I labored under the curse of “stupid.” For that’s exactly how I felt that night; that I was stupid. That who I was and the way I was made were stupid, unacceptable and embarrassing. Whether or not that’s what was intended, that’s what my young ears and heart heard. It hurt, and it shut me down.
I thought about it again last night, standing there at the course. On a hot, August night, I was doing what I love: watching my son run, and I was cheering. Real loud. For him and for all of his team.
As a mother, seeing my children perform or compete has been a singular delight for me, a blessing I can scarcely frame in words. And it calls something up in me that I refuse, now, to squelch or deny.
I was born to cheer. God gave me a happy heart, a competitive streak as wide as the Mississippi, and a desire to spur others on.
When our oldest son was running varsity, I remember asking him one time, “Can you hear everyone who’s yelling at you when you’re running?”
He said something I will never forget. “Everything is a blur. I can’t hear what people are saying.” And then this, “But I can always hear your voice.”
In a season of healing, God, my loving Father, has freed me to be what He meant me to be all along. He’s lifted the shame from my back, He’s strengthened me up, and I’m now that happy, cheering girl. Who’s not perfect. Who’s loud. But who’s not stupid.
God has called me to cheer. To encourage the team. To spur others on for the victory.
To lift others up. To offer some hope. To strengthen the hands that hang down.
The very thing I was meant to do is where discouragement came in, and the curse had its way for too long. No more curse! Stronghold’s down.
Today, I wonder where you’ve been hurt. Where you have been squelched or been silenced. It may be that it’s the very thing that you’re called to do, and that’s why the enemy’s attacked it.
Hold it up to the light. Ask Jesus to speak to it and see what He says about that wound. About you!
I sure do know this–He made you for a reason. He’s gifted you, anointed and called you. And you’re accepted. As you are, as you’re not. So come out.
And shine on.
From the unapologetic and joyful cheerleader,