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Childhood reflections with a touch of grace: Keeping it real

During the middle school years, I continued my love-hate relationship with romanticism. I discovered in adulthood why I struggled so much to be myself around the ladies. I most likely knew much sooner, but would not admit it.

I saw the girls I was attracted to as an odd combination of Leonardo da Vinci's greatest works and goddess material. They could never be like me because they didn't share my flaws, so naturally they were above me. This was a terrible lie to buy into, but I bought the farm on this one.

I once had a cute, freckle-faced girl grab me by the shirt, kiss me on the cheek, and say, "I like you. Let's go see a movie." We did and I returned the kiss on the cheek, but could never get over myself enough to deepen the relationship.

A year or so later, I became smitten with a young lady who could easily pass as an Indian princess. I would wait daily at the bus stop just to see her as she passed by. After months of this, I had a pow wow with my fear of rejection and wrote her a "love" note, asking her to a dance, of all things.

I had to negotiate my way through walking or running. Dancing was really out of the question, so my note informed her that I intended to jiggle, rather than dance. That way, I could not be accused of desecrating the fine art of dancing. Of course, I lacked the courage to hand her the note, so I had a fleet footed friend drop it in her purse as he ran by her.

To my surprise, she loved my note and kept it in her purse for some time. Sadly, she was already spoken for, but she was incredibly sweet towards me for years after that note was written and she missed few opportunities to tease me about jiggling.

Then, there was Lori. I never fancied asking her out. She was beyond a goddess, because she was a cheerleader. I loved the sharp wit and fluent sarcasm that rolled from her beautiful lips like a waterfall. She was never stuck up, but was genuinely friendly to everyone she liked, which covered a lot of us. One day, she decided to autograph my book bag with a sharpie. Her entire name was blazoned upon that bag for the world to read and I hoped they would. My only problem with this attention was that it ruined my book bag. It was no longer available for the menial task of carrying books. It had become a priceless relic and a pearl of great price. Soon after getting that autograph, the bag was neatly tucked into the front corner of my closet, never to be used again. It had the new job of reminding me daily that I was hot stuff, at least in my thinking. Never mind the fact that Lori had probably signed 10 or 12 book bags that day. I conveniently let that fact drift into the distant recesses of my mind, and trust me, I had a lot of space available in my brain when it came to understanding girls.

Though I kept that bag sacredly secure for a good while, it eventually gave way to my penchant for clutter. Plus, the darn signature faded with time. Fortunately, my friendship with Lori did not. Over forty years later, we remain friends. Though I appreciate her now for who she is and not for her status or appearance, I no longer seek to lasso the moon for her, but she will forever be precious to me.

Both teenagers and adults can easily fall prey to idolatry, but never realize it. We balk at the suggestion of doing so, but we've all been guilty of it. For me, I worshipped the perfection I assumed in others, which destroyed any ability to truly know them and enjoy their fellowship. Anybody who is above you is out of your reach.

There is only One who is truly above us and that is God. Fortunately, He chose to dwell among us and bring Himself within our reach. He is God with us, our Emmanuel. I remain amazed that the Creator of the universe would declare that we are His friends, not His slaves.

God understands that relationships must be based in reality and not fantasy. Jesus wants us to love and know Him for who He is and not simply what He can do for us. My middle school infatuations were more about the desire to feel better about myself than to genuinely love and appreciate the people around me. Consequently, I was robbed of truly getting to know them until later in life.

I suspect that is why God hates idolatry, because it will cloud and distort our relationship with Him and we desperately need Him. He is not threatened by lesser gods. They can't hold a candle to Him, but they can cloud our perception of Him and therein lies the problem.

He has written our names in the palm of His hands, reminding us that He alone truly knows us and that we will never be forgotten. Now, there's a signature worth hanging on to; your name in God's handwriting. Jesus loves us entirely. He is cheering for us, and because of His recreative genius in our lives, God thinks we are hot stuff ... I feel a jiggle coming on!

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