A ring of keys swung from her hip, and I could hear her clinking down the hall long before she came into view. Her name was Ida, and she was the geriatric security guard employed by my high school to police the front doors. We held opposing goals; mine was to avoid her and all other adults while slipping in through the triple set of front doors of the red brick school building.
Her goal was to catch me.
While all of the other students gathered in the quad, laughing and chatting while waiting for the back doors to unlock every morning, I arrived at the ring of the first bell. I waited until Ida passed through the main lobby on her rounds, and I slipped through the doors and ran up three flights of stairs to homeroom. She usually caught the tail end of me as my schoolbag and I disappeared around the corner—a flash of permed hair, denim, and my backpack in burgundy.
Ida was the first line of defense to keep order.
The deeper I traveled into the school building, the more intense and professional were the security guards stationed there. I didn’t feel any safer in their presence—the fact that we needed security at school worried me and raised my suspicions of my classmates.
Drug use, teen pregnancy, racial tensions, and occasional violence stripped the school of any nurturing influence.
An underlying air of tension pulsed relentlessly within the cinder block hallways. In response, I tried to make myself as small and silent as possible to avoid drawing attention. I avoided more than Ida during my high school years. I avoided lunchroom fist-fights, girls smoking in the upstairs bathroom, gym class, idle threats, and class participation.
For four years, I made myself small in order to hide in wide-open, vulnerable spaces.
Small became my default position.
Even after moving into adulthood, this tendency to fold inwards and hide within myself remains. I have spent years trying to shrug off this self-imposed cloak of invisibility and allow myself to grow into and own all of my spaces. I am both afraid of being seen and afraid of going unnoticed.
I’m raising two daughters now, and don’t want them to repeat the mistakes of my own youth. I want them to see a mother who refuses to hide in plain sight, one who feels tenderness towards her own outer edges and yet expands beyond them. I want them to grow past the boundaries of their own skin, to live without fear, and to refuse to reduce themselves in the face of rejection.
There is a girl-shaped space cut out for each of them, one that the world will want to label too much or not enough.
This space is their birthright as a child of God. I want to raise girls who refuse to shrink back and hide, but rather expand and fill every space they own with their wild and precious lives.
How do you want to raise your girls?
The Journey to Freedom and Mosaic Bible studies are great tools for opening up the conversation with your daughters and helping them define their identity in Christ and embrace their birthright as a child of God.