As Lillian walked toward the gymnasium she wondered what the convocation was going to be about. All 7th and 8th grade girls were released from 3rd period to make their way to the gym. The announcement filled her with relief. She hadn’t studied enough for her algebra test and now she would have another day to prepare before her make up exam. As she got to the gym she joined the line of girls that was spiraling out from the center. From her point of view, she glimpsed tables in the middle of the gym with lots of white rectangles on them but couldn’t figure out what they were or what was going on. As she waited in line, she noticed that girls would walk from the tables in the center and find a place on the bleachers. Each girl was holding one of those small white rectangles.
Word began to spread from the front of the line to the back about what was on the tables. Lillian heard fragments of the conversations around her. “The tables have badges on them,” said Sarah, a girl that was in Lillian’s algebra class. “Oh, they must have our names on them,” replied the brunette girl Sarah was talking to. But as the line crept along Lillian overheard more conversations about the badges. They didn’t have names on them, but descriptive words. Each girl was to select a badge that best described her.
As Lillian walked closer and closer to the tables she could see the badges that each girl was picking up. Jessica, a girl that had thousands of followers on Instagram picked up the badge with the word “popular” written across it. The next girl was Lucy and she picked up the badge with the word “talented” on it. She was the star on the basketball, softball, and track team.
Lillian’s palms began to sweat and her heart started to pound. She was beginning to panic about which badge she would choose. She knew she couldn’t pick up the “popular” badge because when she posted on Instagram she only got three likes and one was her best friend. She knew she couldn’t pick up the “talented” badge because although she was decent at the sports she played, she was no star like Lucy. She watched as Sarah, the girl in front of her, confidently picked up the badge with the word “stylish” on it. Lillian realized stylish was out of the running also. Her clothes were similar to Sarah’s but they weren’t name brands, which made Sarah’s style more legit.
It was Lillian’s turn. She scanned the table looking from badge to badge. She thought about picking up one with the word “honest” on it but then she remembered the time she lied to her parents about having a Snapchat account. She thought about picking up a badge with the word “attractive” because people would sometimes tell her that she was pretty. But then she remembered that her body didn’t look anything like the images of the celebrities that she followed on Instagram. As Lillian looked at the badges she realized that more than half of them had the same word on them. The word was “sinner.”
A lump formed in Lillian’s throat and tears began to sting her eyes. Lillian knew that she was a sinner. She thought to herself that there had to be another word that fit her more accurately. But when she finally realized there wasn’t, she reached down with a shaking hand to pick it up.
Without looking at anyone she walked straight to an empty row of bleachers with her badge hidden behind her hands. When she took her seat, she started fidgeting with the badge, trying to work up the courage to put it on. But as she was turning the badge over and over she realized that her fingers kept catching on something. When she looked down, she saw there was a bright orange tab on the back that had the words “Jesus” and “pull here.” She hadn’t been to church since she was little, but she remembered hearing stories about Jesus dying to save her from her sins. She never really understood what that meant.
She looked around to see if any of the other girls were looking at the tab on the back of their badges. The other girls were proudly wearing their badges and excitedly chatting about why theirs described them so well. As a girl sat down beside her, Lillian asked if she could take a look at her badge. This girl’s badge had the word “smart” on it and when Lillian flipped it over there was no tab on the back. She handed it back to the girl, thinking out loud “It’s only the badges that say “sinner” that have a tab. The girl gave Lillian a strange look and scooted a little further away from her.
Lillian looked back at the tab with the word “Jesus” and decided to pull it. She was shocked when the badge began to unfold like an accordion and multiple other badges unfurled. She quickly began reading the new badges. Under the first one that said “sinner” was one that read “saved by grace.” Then “fearfully and wonderfully made,” “created for a purpose,” “loved with unfailing love,” “filled with a spirit of power and love,” and lastly “worth dying for.” Lillian’s eyes filled with tears once more but not because of shame. This time her eyes filled with tears of gratitude. The word “sinner” still described her, but because of what Jesus did for her on the cross so did all the words on the new badges. Without hesitation Lillian, with a radiant smile on her face, put her badge on.