Blake T. He asked me out in the 6th grade after the first two girls turned him down. As a slightly awkward and extremely naïve 6th grader, I didn’t realize that A) there were better options out there and B) that I could say “no” if I wanted to. We went out for 3 days, which was some kind of a record for him (and for me, as he was my first official boyfriend, if you can call it that). I called him on day three, after some coaxing from my slightly cooler friend, and dumped him. He responded as any “normal” 6th grade boy would: he had his friend call me the “b” word. No, not beautiful. I’ll let you guess. Shortly after this incident, I fell madly in love with Casey McCoy, who, in turn, fell madly in love with my best friend. I was lucky enough to be made privy of this crushing news while on a middle school retreat. My awkwardness reached it’s peak upon my discovery of the news: as I was attempting to flirt with the object of my affection by taking a football away from him, he let me down easy by screaming, “What are you doing?! Get off of me!” Talk about a crush.
I’m sure that many of you have stories similar to the one above. As a middle school teacher, I have become quite accustomed to preteen angst. It’s not unusual for students to run out of my room in tears over a break up, or for me to find notes proclaiming the “hotness” of a particular boy. “She told her that she was mad at me,” or “He paid him to ask her out,” or “She’s mad at me because I said something, and it wasn’t even mean,” or “He won’t stop asking girls out,” are not uncommon phrases heard in a middle school. There is one phrase, however, that I never dreamed I would hear, until today.
“Caitlyn Kirby has Leukemia.” The words sounded unreal, as if they were resonating through a long tunnel. Caitlyn Kirby. Pictures of red curly hair flashed in my mind. Of smiles too big for such a small face. Of freckles scattered under shining 12-year-old eyes. I thought of her singing silly camp songs while washing dishes during KP, clearly audible above all the others. Memories of her many unsolicited cheerleading performances sprang to life, and I remembered her love for the stage, whether it was a stage at a competition or simply a self-created stage at the front of our church classroom. “Caitlyn is not a sick girl. She is healthy. She is full of life.” But the voice on the other end of the phone disagreed with my thoughts. The reality overcame me, and I found it hard to swallow. Suddenly, the mountain of papers on my desk was no longer a dyer situation. Suddenly “preteen angst” had a new meaning.
God tells us that He will not let us be tried beyond what we can bear. For me, my “bearable load” during middle school was at full capacity with heartbreak. Caitlyn’s load, on the other hand, would seem unbearable to most grown adults. Debbie Benaglio told the Kirbys today at the hospital that, “God knew from day one that this was going to happen.” No, He did not cause it, but, yes, he did know that vibrant little Caitlyn would have quite a load to bear at quite a young age. He knew. He knew that with His help, she would be able to handle it. What an amazing compliment from the Father above. He has allowed Caitlyn to bear this burden because he knows that she can do it. I have watched her perform in camp skits, and I have watched her perform cheers, but now I have the great privilege of watching as she stars in the most important role of her life: faithful daughter of the King. Thank you, Caitlyn, for showing us what it means to rejoice in your suffering. You truly are a shining star of God's stage.
“And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you can bear.”
1 Corinthians 10:13