The television sitcom, The Middle, is a pretty good show — family-friendly, with no crude humor. That is quite a rarity these days, so I do enjoy watching it. On the show, Sue Heck, the family’s endearing, goofy, forever optimistic teenaged daughter, is my favorite character. Sue is not very coordinated, causing her to be a bit of a lovable klutz. And, in spite of Sue’s infectious joy, most of the popular kids at her school treat her as if she is easily forgettable. Nevertheless, Sue presses on, undeterred. Sue relentlessly tries out for all the sports teams and extra-curricular clubs. Since Sue almost never makes the teams/clubs that she tries out for, her family usually just smiles politely whenever Sue tells them of her latest plans.
In season three, episode four, Sue tries out for the varsity cheerleading squad, where those selected to join the team will receive a telephone call that evening. She waits excitedly for the telephone call that her family thinks will never come, but it does! Sue is thrilled and everyone else is shocked. At school, the two cheerleader co-captains explain to Sue that her receiving the telephone call was a mix-up and that she should do the right thing, return her uniform, and give up her spot.
Now as I was watching this, I was thinking, “Awww, poor, disillusioned Sue. Let down again.” But instead, something different happened. Without ever losing her smile, Sue said, “No.” Sue’s point was that even if there might have been a mix-up, she did receive a telephone call, and she was determined to walk in that. Therefore, her answer was, “No.” To me, in that moment, an already feel-good episode now had me brimming with laughter and applause.
I grew up in an era of “children should be seen and not heard”. I was also raised in a church community where women were taught to be demure. A woman was not to be “loud and boisterous” (I actually heard these very words in a sermon once).
I am not advocating for us to raise or encourage unruly, disrespectful children. Yet, there must be a bridge in which we can disciple our children to be Christ-like, but where our children also view our church community as a haven where they, too, have a voice.
A child who learns to say “No” is a child who has a voice and learning the control of “No” can be empowering and transformative. That voice might be against someone trying to harm them, or demoralize them, or bully them, or seeking to prey on their innocence.
Even though Sue Heck was not good enough, athletically or aesthetically, to make the cheerleading squad, she would not fade away again, into the background. Let us strive to create and cultivate a church community in which we teach our young people to step into their calling. And, that they do so with confidence and with boldness.