Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

The Night I Was Excommunicated from Youth Group November 28, 2012

Filed under: John — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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Not to brag, but I have a near-professional ability to sleep. I have been known to snore through alarm clocks, sonic booms, thunderstorms, even the rare earthquake. On one notable occasion I was sleeping on the couch in my friends’ living room, and apparently their two boys were up sick all night, just feet from my makeshift bed. But I didn’t make that discovery until the next morning, because sure enough, I’d remained blissfully unconscious through the whole ordeal.


Under normal circumstances my champion sleeping skills have served me well. But there was one time they got me into some real trouble.


I was an awkward freshman, trying to adjust to high school and break into the firmly established cliques in my youth group, when our church announced it was hosting an overnight retreat for a number of youth groups in the area. I was nervous since I didn’t know anyone well and I was mortified to display my nighttime braces headgear in public. But I talked myself into going, figuring it would be a good chance to get to know people.


Everything was going well…until roughly 3 a.m., when I awoke to fluorescent lights glaring and all the other girls out of their sleeping bags. As my heavy-lidded eyes adjusted to the brightness, I realized there were two clearly marked camps of girls shouting at each other from each side of the room. To my horror, I found that I was lying on the ground between the two groups, in some kind of battlefield no-man’s-land.


“Are you from this church?” one girl demanded.


I squinted up at her, utterly baffled as to what had transpired while I’d been sawing logs. Desperate to snuggle back inside my warm sleeping bag, I mumbled, “Uh…no…”


There was a pause, and for a moment I dared to believe my brilliant strategy had been successful.


Then a shout came from the back of the room. “Yes, you are! I know you go to this church.”


And before I knew it, my sleeping bag and I were unceremoniously thrown out of the carpeted room and into the cold tile hallway. But as soon as I got there, I faced another unexpected wrinkle.


“Hey, you said you weren’t with us.” Ten sets of beady eyes glared at me. Shoot. The girls from my church.


And I found myself in the midst of a 14-year-old nightmare: wandering the halls at 3:00 a.m., utterly friendless…and wearing dorky headgear.



I had denied my people, and they had rejected me.


Maybe that’s why I resonate with the biblical account of Peter’s denial of Jesus:

The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”

“No,” he said, “I am not.”

—John 18:17
Twice more it happened: the same question, the same denial.


But Peter’s story didn’t end there. God, in his flair for redemption and a good dramatic arc, gave Peter another chance. Peter had denied Jesus three times, but then Jesus gave him an opportunity to proclaim his love three times.


A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

—John 21:17


Jesus didn’t write Peter off or relegate him to the cold, lonely hallway after his denial; instead, he showed him mercy and restored the relationship.


In his grace, God does the same for us. Even when we fail him and deny him, he invites us to proclaim our love for him. He pulls us out of the warzone…and gives us another chance.


I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.


4 Responses to “The Night I Was Excommunicated from Youth Group”

  1. alice Teisan Says:

    This puts a heart aching fresh light on a familiar story. Thanks again.

  2. Nancy Rische Says:

    Our first response is so often self preservation. I pray that I can learn to stand up for God at every opportunity.

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