As I looked out at the sea of faces, her’s struck me. The five hundred high school girls in the audience nearly all have brown eyes and dark hair, but her skin tells a story that I want to know. When the shrill bell dismisses us, they all leave. But she lives in my mind.
How could I forget her? The one with the hard mask hardened, must have been wounded till the little girl inside had fled far and fast. The one I knew, and she knew, was too mad and broken to get that little girl back.
The long, blonde-haired principal tells me sixty girls at their high school are pregnant or have babies. Not six. Sixty. And who’s to know how many abortions?
Between freshman and senior year, their class size falls to half. Half. Half drop out. Getting them to believe in themselves is half the battle. More.
“Thank you for your message,” a teacher says. “Teaching them they have value is something we have to do over and over and over again.” Her hands cycle in the air. The cycle of language barriers and economic walls and generational ties. When generation after generation don’t finish high school or even consider college, then those who make it half way make it further than their parents did.
When I exit through the metal detectors, the dilapidated molding and the girl in the mask stay with me.
My sore heart aches. I wonder what kind of future they have if even now, as freshman and sophomores, I can sense the sexual sin in the room. I can imagine the drugs that make their narrow eyes glaze. I can picture the home they go back to and the hurt and the way they want More but go to the wrong places to get it. I feel my blood heat when I have to make a U-turn at the corner store and the drug dealer stands there checking his tats.
When I arrive at the middle school across town, the police officer on campus tells me the biggest problem isn’t gangs anymore; it’s girls. Girls whose phones are filled with sexual images of themselves.
The sea of souls wash over the bleachers, and there before me are 800 lives. I want to touch One. All.
After the program the girls flood around me in a pool. The officer doesn’t stop them; they all press in and I’m encompassed by the smell of their skin, their hair, their stories as they shove papers, phones, notebooks, arms and even faces …. to get my autograph.
I write U R More on cheeks, necks, forearms, t-shirts, notebooks, until they dwindle to just a few.
The One I hug hasn’t had electricity in her house since last fall. And how many did Daddy hurt? How many are filling phones with their privates; how many are haunted? How many, do we think, statistically, will make it out of high school unscathed?
Boooooo! I cry inside. Boo.
But God. But God! But God can make a white girl a role model for black and vice versa. But God can break through public school walls with a message of Love, and penetrate concrete. But God can reach out through teachers, counselors to gently remove the shells they wear to shield themselves from more pain, more disappointment.
God shines his light through cracked and jagged places, and where there’s no light, there is Christ, and He can break through any crumbled place.
Before I speak at the last school of the day, I stand in the sun against the concrete wall outside. I turn my face to the sun and say, Press your image into me. Inside, I hurriedly text our prayer team and tell them what we’re up against. I fear the kids won’t believe me. But most do, cause we all bleed red.
So this cracked and broken girl speaks, and Beautiful Truth does its work. Because I want to know too: am I More than my Messiness? Am I defined by the times when the light turns off inside me, and it’s all dilapidated and crumbling? Is that who I am? My worst moments?
Or are we really More than what people think? Are we More than what we see in the mirror? Are we More on the days, like yesterday, when I woke up feeling So Much Less?
We are all at the core hungry, our hearts ravished for love.
We all want for the answer to come … in an assembly, from a teacher, a school girl, a coach, a counselor, a lover: the answer to be Yes.
U R More than the moment the lights went out.
U R Enough, as you are. Right now, and …
U Have a Destiny …. So Go Now.
Go Shine. Go Get ‘Em. Go Break the Cycle, and Go Change You, and Change the World around You.
P.S. girl in the audience, the one with the mask: U R Still on my Mind.
* to support our U R More programs in the schools (or to help us pass out more books to girls who want them) click here.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”