Then, Junior High happened…
What’s your story? The second chapter of my story begins in Junior High. As loved and accepted as I felt in my early years, everything changed somewhere between 6th and 8th grade. I guess that’s probably the case for most of us.
What is it that changes as we enter the pre-teen and teenage years? In a word: PUBERTY. Some of us remember it well. Some of us lock Junior High memories deep in some dungeon of our psyche we hope never again sees the light of day. OK, that’s a little dramatic but, seriously, if there are two or three years of our lives we would never go back to for all the money in the world, they usually happened between about 11 and 14 years old.
Not only does puberty unleash hormones that make every day feel like the best and worst day of our lives. We also begin to traverse new needs and desires that expose us to dark places we never before knew existed. My dark place was, in a word: abandoned.
I don’t know why I felt abandoned, exactly. I think it’s just the way I interpreted the things that happen as my social world changed. Sure, my parents still loved me, but they had to, right? It didn’t help that I was big. Really big. That made me the target of something in the neighborhood of bullying. It didn’t help that if you put an “F” in front of my name it conveniently became “Fatwell.” Wow. That hurt just now as I typed it.
I felt alone. It broke me. I not only felt unloved. I also felt unloveable. Weird for a white kid in the suburbs with a solid family, right? Probably so, but that didn’t make it any less real.
Then, there was my youth pastor…
Then, there was my youth pastor. Every week when I showed up to church, he showed me he cared about me. He didn’t reject me. The nickname, “Fatwell,” never escaped his lips. I know that doesn’t sound like much thirty years later, but it changed me.
There was a day in eighth grade. I had run to sin to make me feel better. (Don’t ask. None of your business.) My abandonment was compounded by guilt. That day I realized my youth pastor’s love and acceptance for me must come from Jesus. I decided that day to quit feeling abandoned and guilty. It was time for my little-kid faith to grow up — to quit being victimized by the dark places inside myself and start following Jesus.
As I committed my life to Christ in an every-day kind of way, I realized he had become my constant companion. Prayer began to be a continual conversation between my Savior and me. I realized I would never be abandoned because he would never leave me, nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). I became hungry to read the Bible. Those were his words, and he meant them for me. He was the one who would deliver me from the dark places inside myself.
My whole life became about Jesus. I’m pretty sure my friends got tired of hearing how he tied into every part of life. It was like I had become some kind of philosopher-monk who saw every relationship and circumstance as a neon sign pointing to the incredible reality of a God who loves us and wants us to know him.
But, there was still tension…
But, there was still tension. There were some hurt, fears
GRACE. That’s the title of Chapter 3…
What about your story?
When did your story change? How did it begin to grow up when you faced adversity?
Did you find maturity? Who was there to guide you as you looked for more from your faith?
Did you find God in your dark places? Did faith in Jesus become following Jesus?
I would love to hear your story! Tell me about it in the comments, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, better yet, make a video and post it to YouTube or Facebook to tell us your story.