Why show up for class?

Dan and I had a recent conversation with one of our granddaughters who’s having a hard time at school. She moved to a new town after the school year started and a couple of the boys paid some attention to the ‘new girl’ … and now the popular girls don’t like her.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

COVID sent everyone home for the rest of that school year and all the next.

Our granddaughter is back in class for her final year of middle school (middle school—that explains a lot, doesn’t it?). And she’s remembered as the ‘new girl’ they didn’t like from sixth grade.

“I just stay out of the drama,” she said. “It’s not my happy place, but I just need to focus on my grades so I can get into college.”

And then she added that she’s seen some of the girls’ posts on social media. They write about how hard their lives are. “No wonder they’re so mean,” our granddaughter observed. “They don’t have happy lives.”

Pretty insightful for a 13-year-old.

Speaking of having a hard time in school … there was a season when my first husband and I were in wilderness training school. Job lay-off. Financial reversals. Live-in parent sinking into Alzheimer’s. A terminal cancer diagnosis. Those wilderness years.

As loss heaped upon loss, I whined: “God, why are we being punished?” I knew this wasn’t sound theology, but my emotions often won out over my faith in those early days.

When God first invited us into that desolate place, it felt uncaring and harsh. I resisted. I wallowed in self-pity. I dragged my heels in the dust and showed up late for class.

In her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, Dr. Rachel Remen wrote about growing in wisdom and learning to love better:

We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding and by failing. All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class.

In time—probably way too much time—I began showing up open-hearted for wilderness training classes. And I learned much during those years.

Our 13-year-old granddaughter is showing up at school with the attitude of doing her best because she sees a couple important things: 1) her future is on the line, and 2) there’s more to life beyond the mean girls in middle school.

If losing, and failing, and rejection are part of life on this planet—and they are—then maybe we can choose to grow in wisdom, and learn to love better, and cultivate compassion for others in hard places by showing up for class with our hearts wide open.


What holiday pace have you chosen?


“25 Days of Christmas” Fail


  1. Tanya Neelon

    Amen to that, Marlys! May you and your husband enjoy a joyful Christmas and may 2022 bring you both
    peace and continued blessings!

    Tanya and Will

  2. Rita

    Marlys, I resonate with the phrases “wilderness training” and “wilderness years.” The book ‘Kitchen Table Wisdom’ is one of my all-time favorites. Thank-you for pulling out such a great quote about showing up for class. I’m going to be copying these thoughts into my journal for further pondering!

  3. Kathy D Poncy

    Amen, Marlys.

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