I think I am not alone when I say school was rough for me as far as getting along with people and making friends.
I especially had it hard since we moved around a lot when I was young. Probably the toughest move that we had to make was the summer after 6th grade in ’89.
I want to explain not what I left behind that made it hard, but where we moved and why it was so difficult and a place that I would’ve rather not moved to.
That summer God called my dad to pastor a church in St. Joseph, MI. I was just going into 7th grade at the time.
When we met the church family, they were very loving and caring, so the church and at home were the only two places while living there that I felt safe. I don’t mean safe by not fearing for my life.
From the moment I walked into school on that bright September day, immediately my classmates began teasing me. It started out as harmless fun, but when they started seeing me get upset and taking it personally, it only added fuel to the fire.
I don’t remember how far into the school year it was, but a nasty rumor got started about me and caused me to have my own nickname. It had nothing to do with being from the south or being a christian or even a pk.
The rumor spread quickly, and while not everyone believed that it was false, most were still unwilling to risk their own reputation by befriending me.
It also got so bad that I couldn’t ride my bike or be out in public around a lot of my peers, because I would hear them shouting my nickname.
Some might think this as trivial or even wonder why I let it bother me so much. Unless you were in my shoes, there’s no possible way that someone else can say that they would’ve responded any differently than I had.
I had to endure this for 5 years. There were days that I dreaded going to school on Mondays because I never knew if it was going to be an easy or hard week.
My grades, as a result, suffered pretty badly. It made it especially hard to concentrate in class. There were even a couple of teachers who were unwilling to stand up for me and one of them actually snickered a couple of times when one of her favorite students called me by the nickname in class.
These moments in my life, I unfortunately will never forget.
I can, however choose how I am going to respond to them.
I fully believe that God was and is in complete control of everything that happens in my life. Maybe at the time, it was nearly impossible for me to realize this. Just when I thought the teasing and name calling was over or would let up a little, they would come back even stronger.
My parents did everything they knew to help me, but I never opened up to them to what was really going on at school. All they observed were the symptoms. My mom did what she could to help me with my homework and to get my grades up, but the fact was all I wanted was peace at school and for people to like me.
About the only thing I looked forward to at school was choir. Singing in the choir became something that I poured my time and energy into. But even in choir, I would get picked on there, only not as severe as in all the rest of my classes.
There was a time in gym class that I nearly roundhouse kicked a guy in the head because he had pushed me to the brink. I jumped up onto the bench in the locker room as he was standing below on the floor. I was less than a foot from his head and only inches away from kicking him, but I knew it wouldn’t have been right because he hadn’t laid a finger on me. That incident though, caused me to be late to my next class that I was forced to wear my smelly gym clothes to. Talk about being embarrassed. This was one of the worst moments that I experienced in school.
Looking back, I know school wasn’t easy for me, but I know that God had his hand on me and had a purpose for everything that happened to me.
One thing that I learned from this is that these memories and the hurt they caused doesn’t go away quickly nor on its own. Pain has a way of sticking with us for quite a long time.
I often wonder what it’s like to be on the other side of this. To be the one to cause pain to someone else. Would I have any clue how much hurt and pain I brought to someone? Would I feel any desire to search out the ones that I’ve wronged or hurt in the past so I could apologize to them?
Unfortunately, I’ve never been contacted by any of the people who made fun of me in school to apologize to me and I’m not holding my breath that I ever will.
So that brings me back to the choice that I have made concerning the hurt and pain that I experienced.
1. My suffering doesn’t compare to the amount of pain that Jesus experienced on my behalf.
2. To hold bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart toward the ones who hurt me is like drinking poison and waiting for them to die.
To allow the pain and suffering to shape and mold your decisions is like allowing the poison of unforgiveness to slowly kill you.
There’s a phrase in the book of Hebrews chapter 12 verse 15 that says don’t let any root of bitterness spring up in you. This chapter is talking about the discipline of God.
When we are disciplined in life, we have a choice to make. If we choose to let bitterness spring up in us, then the discipline is going to be useless. But, it will always bring more severe discipline because God wants us to respond not with bitterness, but with humble submission and obedience to His will.