When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. You know that one kid that was in your class when you were in elementary school that you made fun of for no particular reason? I was that kid.
I can kind-of remember the start of it all, and pretty much it was all because I was different. I was one of the few whose parents were still married to each other. I am smart, and in first AND second grade, the school wanted me to move up a grade. I was already the youngest in my class [another thing for which I was teased – I remember one kid laughing at me because I started kindergarten when I was four. It confused me then, and it confuses me still.] and Mom didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be even younger compared to my classmates.
I was also teased for being a Christian. In Sunday school, they’d asked us to invite a friend to church. So this is what I did, and I was viewed as a freak by my friends. Another couple things that separated me from my peers were my imagination and my love of animals. I think they pretty much made a pact with each other to hate whatever I loved.
Before seventh grade, my moved to another town a couple hours away. I was safe at this school. Most of the kids in my class were excited to have a new student, as if it didn’t happen every year. [And in this small town, maybe it didn’t.] A lot of them lived on farms, so it wasn’t strange for them to like animals. And [especially in winter] there isn’t a whole lot to do, so one has to learn to entertain themselves. A good imagination comes in handy. It took me an entire year to get used to this and not think that they were all just fooling me and waiting for me to turn my back so they could stab me, both literally and figuratively.
It didn’t take long for me to start to hate the kids from my previous school. I could barely go through my old home town without feeling this rage fill me. I didn’t want anything to do with them except to watch them die. It was not pleasant. I was an angry person. I carried the anger and the hatred and the bitterness with me wherever I went, and it influenced everything I did.
The summer before my freshman year of high school, I went to a Christian camp with my best friend. I still called myself a Christian, and I tried to be nice to those around me, but still I hated those who wronged me, still I let the bitterness rule my life, and I never wanted to do anything more. I didn’t want to serve others. The thought of stewardship sickened me. Sometimes physically. I wasn’t a good Christian, but I didn’t realize it.
I was actually hesitant to go to camp. I’d been to a Christian camp in elementary school, and it wasn’t that fun. The only good thing about it was that I was with Sister and she protected me as best as she could from the kids we’d just met. There was just something about me. I was an easy mark for bullies. What I’m trying to say is that I was scared to go to another camp.
But I went anyway.
You know what, I can’t even really remember exactly what happened. I tried to write about it, but I don’t have the words to make it flow well. We were in chapel, and it was during a prayer. We were allowed to come forward to the altar area if we needed someone to pray directly over us or if we were making our lives new for Christ. I felt this push to go forward. I realized, as I knelt on the floor to pray, that I’d been wrong to hold this anger, bitterness, and hatred toward the kids who’d wronged me. It was wrong of me to not forgive them. While looking forward to watching them burn in Hell, I was actually burning right alongside them.
I fell to my face, crying. I felt this heavy weight on my back, and it was so suffocating. When I was hating others, I was hating God as well. I felt so alone at that point. I had left God.
I wanted it, though, so badly. I wanted to be with God. I prayed for forgiveness for all the evil I had done. I wanted Jesus in my life, and I asked him to come in me. I then did something that is a difficult concept for some: I forgave the kids who’d bullied and teased me for all those years during elementary school. Even though I was pretty sure they weren’t sorry [and that they probably didn’t even remember what they’d done], I forgave them everything.
The weight went away. A joy I’d never known filled me, taking the place times a million the anger and bitterness had filled before. I could hardly stand the joy, it was so intense. But it was so lovely as well.
Then, I heard something that only I could hear:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake.
Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I was still crying, but instead of crying because of my shame, I was crying because of my joy. When the Holy Spirit flows through you, sometimes it’s just too much for the body to handle, and tears flow, your hands shake, and many other wonderful things. The presence of God is a wonderful thing to feel. I knew that God was still there, that he’d really always been there, I’d just chosen to ignore him.
I still have to work on that. Sometimes I still choose to ignore God. Sometimes I don’t always take the opportunities he’s given me. Sometimes I drag my feet because of fear of rejection or the unknown. And despite all my short comings, God loves me anyway. I can always come to God and ask for forgiveness. As long as I ask, it will be given to me.
It can be given to you, too. All you have to do is ask.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me.