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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Encouragement (among believers) (11/08/07)

TITLE: What Would Barnabas Do?
By JoAnne Potter


“You’re stupid.”
“You’re ugly.”
“You don’t fit in.”

I couldn’t hear the tapes playing in Katie’s head, but I could see them in eyes hidden behind her hair, in her shuffle, in her slumped shoulders. At fourteen, Katie had intelligence and wit beyond her years, but that was the problem. She wasn’t beyond her years. She was still fourteen.

I looked down at the day’s lesson: fruits of the Spirit. They all knew them word for word. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, blah, blah, blah. Every student recited perfectly, but when the bell rang, they left in a herd, cutting Katie out like a lame calf. She walked out like she did every day: slow, last, and alone.

I thought about the bracelets so many of the kids wore. “What would Jesus do?” Obviously, they didn’t read them often enough. Some folks talk about salvation as a leap of faith but, for kids, the leap is a pretty short jump. For them, the believing part comes easier. It’s learning to live like Christ that trips them up. Learning what Jesus would do and time might eventually produce love, joy, peace, patience, and all the rest in these teenage lives, but until then, Katie needed something more. She needed an encourager. She needed a Barnabas. So what, I wondered, would Barnabas do?

Barnabas, in his day, sold a field and put down the proceeds at the apostles’ feet, bringing his resources to kingdom work. He defended Paul’s conversion in front of the apostles, his own friends. He worked with Paul for a year in Antioch, nurturing the faith of new believers until they reached some maturity. He kept an unclouded eye on God, recognizing that the Lord walks a straight path, but men do not, and that sufficient grace meets everyone who binds their will to His.

In junior high, the herd may rule but much influence still lies with teachers, so Katie’s teachers tried to put on Barnabas for her sake. It was easy to give her private words of praise or to add extra attaboys to already excellent papers. It felt natural to occasionally lift her chin and make eye contact with our “Good Morning”. It blessed everyone to enlist her help writing devotions for our basketball teams. It disarmed her chief tormentor when we separated male classmates to their own lunch table. We stuck with it for a year and more. We tried not to make her stand out, but to clear enough space for her to stand. We prayed.

In His own time, God worked. She began to meet our eyes in greeting. She learned to step with decision. She stood taller. The tape eventually hushed.

Last week, just days after her sixteenth birthday, I watched her walk down the hall, an almost indistinguishable part of a group of five perfectly similar teenage girls. Her head bobbed in carefree laughter, she smiled quick and clean, she skipped to a triumphant high-five. Yesterday, I watched her comfort a gangly underclassman, a shy thirteen-year-old with dark eyes and bright tears. This morning, Katie’s MySpace blog read, “God is so amazing! He has broken me in so many ways and I still carry scars, but He is full of love and tender mercies. I am stronger than when I first believed.”

Thank you, Barnabas. Thank you, Jesus.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 11/15/07
Oh, how my heart breaks for the Katies of the world! Thank you so much for writing this piece. Youth group leaders, snatch this one up!
Christine Rhee11/15/07
How wonderful to hear the way Katie's teachers banded together to give this girl encouragement over a period of time. Inspirational story. Thanks for writing.
Seema Bagai 11/16/07
A great message to anyone who works with teens. Well done.
Deborah Engle 11/18/07
A true Barnabus spirit, indeed! Well written.
Debbie Wistrom11/19/07
How fortunate the teachers were paying attention and Godly. Great message. Keet at it.