“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:240).

Middle school is a breeding ground for painfully awkward experiences. Watching my two daughters navigate the throes of it is sometimes more devastating for myself than they!

“How do I know who my friends really are?” seems to be a common question, a daily consideration. They want to know who the real deal is, and avoid people who act differently around different people. I watch people come and go from their lives, but a select few stick here and there. As if middle school isn’t hard enough to navigate, following Christ through middle school is painfully hard at times.

Choosing the company we keep is important no matter what age we are. In middle school, sometimes we’re stuck dealing with the ones we don’t choose in class, on our teams, and attached to our friend groups. What we know as adults, theses teens are learning in real time: no matter where we go or what we do, there will be difficult people God has called us to love. Even in our church families. Wise adults learn when to stick with the hard people and through tough situations, even though we are free to choose seemingly easier paths.

We all crave genuine, authentic friendships and relationships. But in order to experience them, it’s important for us to be working on the genuine authenticity of our own hearts. There’s only one real deal …God. The root of all authentic love, He’s the only one who can proclaim a promise including “always” or “never,” and the only One who can truly, wholly and understandably utter, “I know.” He understands fully, completely, as the One who formed each of us and knit a particular purpose into our lives here on earth. We begin as His, and in every one of our hearts is the desire to be with Him. He is a relational God, wanting to guide and share life with us daily. His love for us is so great, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to sacrifice His divinely perfect life to save ours from the deathly consequence of sin which we cannot avoid in this world.