I use to be the happiest, jovial child! I was inquisitive, curious, and carefree! My parents swear that I had such a unique smile that never left me at that time. Looking back, I believe that I had a strong sense of justice. I was very sensitive and could gage right and wrong as well as justice and injustice. I was just a happy kid! This may just be nostalgia but life seemed so much more simple when I was a child. I did not have to worry about what major to take, how I was going to pay for things, girls had cooties (though I always got along with them), and the biggest concern was what fun would be had any given day. I loved Star Wars, and if you accused me of being obsessed you’d be correct, and it filled my vivid imagination. By the time of fourth grade, or 2001 for reference, I was still very much a happy, happy, happy child. However, as I entered fifth grade, that smile that my parents talked about would disappear. In the past few years, when we’ve talked about that time and where I am now, they’ve mentioned that that smile I had never really did return.
When I entered fifth grade, I found out how cruel other children could be. The way my middle school was set up meant that we had a homeroom that would stay together all day, except for our single elective period, moving from one subject to the next. Around this time, too, my family split from the church we had been attending for reasons I still do not know to this day. We tried a new church, the church I am now attending and serving in, but from around this point forward we were unchurched. Anyway, I spent five days a week, nearly eight hours a day with the same kids who choose me as their victim. They’d tease me, bully me, and would find any means in which to antagonize me. This went on for the entirety of the school year. I distinctly remember reaching a point that I no longer wanted to go to school. I remember fighting with my mom one morning adamantly refusing to go to school. I wanted no part of it. I was completely traumatized, looking back the things the kids would say and mock me with were rather trivial and inconsequential, because I was subjected to it every day. As this continued, I grew more and more spiteful, hateful.
I grew calloused and resorted to fighting back in whatever way I could. I learned how to swear and would throw words back at them. I’d take my anger out on my closer friends because I was hurting. I’d make every effort to toughen up and carry the weight of the pain and suffering. I tried to endure. And Y’all, I failed miserably. I became a very angry person. I hated everyone. I’d take out my anger on doors, walls, my siblings. I was explosive. Anger and hate sat just under the surface and would implode by the slightest issue. Even as I moved on to sixth and seventh grade, the bullying lessened as I got bigger and larger than most of my peers. However, the pain that I experienced as a child lingered and worsened. I isolated myself which led me into greater sins that I will not discuss at this time. I avoided people as best I could. My anger became my most valuable weapon during this time in my life. I also adapted my words to be nuanced through sarcasm to mask the hate I’d spread.
I very truly entered into a self-destructive path between 5th and 8th grade because I had an issue in controlling my anger. I also became a skeptic and a cynic. I trusted nobody apart from myself. At some point between the eighth grade and ninth grade, my entire family began going to counseling for other issues. I definitely wasn’t having it either. Let alone, I didn’t trust this shrink, who is actually a pretty fantastic person whom I have much respect for now, who was trying to invoke in us a change. However, what I needed was this person holding up a mirror to myself and my family to reveal the issues that were dwelling within my broken soul. My tongue spread nothing but hate and lies to those I came into contact with. Y’all, when the Bible says the tongue can either give life or it can kill its not lying! So for a good chunk of my schooling life, I was lost and angry and bitter.
Something changed toward the end of my freshman year. I was reintroduced to the church. I slowly, hesitantly made my way back to the place full of broken people. It would take the rest of my time in high school to begin to change my ways. I was fortunate to have a youth paster who was willing to battle through my transition into a new stage. Y’all my words had become different, they were sarcastic and cruel, but were guised as humor. Through my sophomore year, I was still in my ways speaking sarcasm and being a jerk. I was terrible. I was a mess. I find it funny now, that toward the end of high school that God would place a calling on my life to love others. To make every effort to love anyone I come in contact with.
Allowing God to do a work on our lives is a process. One that takes more time than we might imagine. Even to this day, I have to be careful with how I speak and I admit that there are times when I’ve not kept the sarcasm in check. My attempt at humor is biting, especially when it’s not intended to be so. I can, in all praise to God, look back at where I was then and where I am now as a completely different person! In some ways, I’m still the same but I’m no longer burdened with anger. I am free from the shackles of anger and hate that weighed me down for so many years. Now, I know that I cannot undo the hurt that I inflicted to people, my family, my friends, but I recognize the purpose God has placed upon me. To move from where I was then, and identify those needing love. To build up people, to encourage people, to share unconditional love to all who need it. This takes many forms, a word, a smile, a side-hug (cause modesty), a funny story, a conversation around a trashcan after dinner, and so on. We all want to feel wanted. To feel like we matter. To feel like we’re appreciated. To feel the appropriate kind of physical love (like a hug or a pat on the back). The tongue can do just that, give life or tear somebody down. I never want to be that person again, the one who tore others down. I never will be thanks to the power of Christ’s sacrifice and drawing us to a place of redemption.
So now, nearly done with college and quickly approaching my thirties, I have a purpose before me both at church, work, and at home, to share life with those I come into contact with. I have a purpose in my service to both my high school and college students, to be a source a life to them. Why? Because I know the transformative years that are high school and early college. The uncertainty of the future. The need for a foundation. The fear of what’s coming. I eagerly look forward to being a church where I find myself every week! I love my peers for no particular reason, but just because I love them! I look forward every day to to hear about their weeks, to hear about their wins, to listen to their stories, to play games together, to worship together, to share in the lives! I am endlessly grateful that I have the ability, now, to love people! To recognize those who are needing encouragement! To be a source of life to someone! Y’all, it’s all because of God! Because of Christ! I can smile again! I am happy again! I have love! I have life! I have a purpose! I have a reason for living! I am free! I am redeemed! While that smile that my parents saw as a child has never returned, it’s been replaced by a smile of somebody who has happiness, who has love! It’s a different smile! This is a small part of a larger testimony of what God is doing in the lives of people across the globe. It is my hope, that even as I write this blog for myself, that my testimony may have an impact on all who come across it. God loves you! God wants to do a work in you! He wants to give you a purpose and reason for existing! It is my prayer that through my life God will be glorified and that people will see the work Christ has done in my life! My motivation is not my own glory, because I could not on my own change from my hateful, angry ways, but to be a source of life to people just as Christ has given me a source of life!
Grace and Peace,