Love. It is the greatest thing the human heart longs for. To be wanted; to be needed; to know that someone thinks you’re something special are desires we are born infused with. But the love we need is more than just that. No human can satisfy the love we need. The love we need is so much greater. It is God’s love. No one but God can satisfy the deep hole we all hold in our hearts. Too many times, Satan tries to deceive us and make us believe that we are not loved and do not deserve to be so. Too many times, we believe him. For too long, I believed him.
Many have described me as a happy, bubbly, cheerful, Godly girl. I am the one everyone comes to for advice, love, or even just a simple hug. I guess people just figure I’ve always been that way. And why not? I don’t think I’ve ever really given people a reason to believe otherwise. But what many people don’t know is that I was bullied for five years. I don’t say this to make people feel sorry for me. Pity does nothing but add to the guest list on a pity party. I’d rather this pity party be cancelled. I’ve been down that road, tried that game, and I’ll tell you right now, it does nothing to satisfy anyone. But what I do ask for is to be understood. This did happen to me. This continues to happen to people every single day.
Statistics show that 20% of school-aged children have admitted to being bullied. Every 20 seconds, someone attempts suicide. Most of these attempts are a direct result of bullying. Bullying is real. It is everywhere. It is in schools, homes, the work place, and sadly, even churches.
I’d always known that these people didn’t like me very much. But not long after I accepted Christ, their disdain for me grew. It seemed that every time I was around, things got worse. Every week, they’d do their best to make me feel like the stupidest, most worthless person in the world. And, while it hurts to admit it, I let them. If they said I was stupid, or didn’t know anything, or was a control-freak, I’d believe them.
My mom did everything she could to try and counter these people’s actions. She prayed, talked to me and held me when I cried. But I was soon constantly surrounded by the words of my tormentors. The atrocious ideas that I was worthless or ugly or controlling consumed my thoughts. I would cry out to God, asking over and over again: WHY?? Why me??
I can remember one particular time, when I was sitting next to my mom, tears streaming down my face, when I said to her, “Why does this have to be happening to me? Why do they hate me?? I’ve done nothing to them!” My mom shook her head. She told me she didn’t know. She didn’t know why they hated me, or why they picked on me. But then she gave me a verse. This verse lit a candle of hope for me. A candle that still shines and gets brighter every day.
And we know that all things work together for good
to them that love God to them who are
the called according to His purpose.
This verse soon became a constant reminder that I needed to look to God to rescue me. He had a purpose in all that was going on—even though I couldn’t see it. I needed to have faith that He had not forgotten me and that in the end everything would be just as it should be.
But as time went on, I began to allow my gaze on Christ to slip. I began to look in all the wrong places for attention. I put my parents through the wringer with my bad attitude about school, their authority, and just life in general. I joined online discussion forums and spent hours debating topics I knew nothing about and making a fool of myself in the process. I would chat for hours online with a young man I didn’t even know, simply because he talked to me and said he liked me. By the end of my freshman year of highschool, my life was a complete and utter mess. I had gained quite a bit of weight, I was on the computer whenever I could be, and I almost didn’t finish that year of school. As it were, I had to repeat Algebra and Spanish 1. In addition to the damage I had done on my own, I was still being bullied and my best friend was no longer my best friend. I pretty much hated myself. When my mom discovered the piles of unfinished schoolwork, it was a huge reality check for me. Seeing how upset and disappointed she was with me, my attitude, and my life made me begin to realize that I needed an attitude adjustment. I tried to do better with my life, but didn’t do so hot. At that point, I was relying on the quicksand pit of my own strength.
Not long after that, my family left the situation that had brought the constant torment upon me. The last time we drove away, I shook the entire way home. Shock? Most likely. I couldn’t believe we were never going back. I would never have to face those people again. It was over. My years of constantly being told I was worth no more than dirt, and no smarter than it either were over. But this was really just the beginning. Even though those people were no longer in my life, the damage was done. I was one of the walking wounded: the girl who smiled on the outside while she bled on the inside. I was the girl who looked in the mirror each morning and wanted to choke at the sight of her reflection. I was the girl who wanted more than anything to be loved but was too blind to see she had love sitting right in front of her.
I began pursuing a young man. I wanted more than anything for him to like me. I guess I figured if he liked me despite the fact that I was “worthless, ugly, and stupid” then maybe I’d actually be worth loving. He became my friend, but I made a point of talking to him every chance I got. I spent hours letting my mind dwell on him, wondering if he would be at such-and-such a place or go to such-and-such an event.
But I wasn’t completely consumed by the slippery slope I was trying to climb. God was doing a lot of work in my heart. Slowly but surely, I began letting Him take over—but only in certain areas. I kept a tight grip on my ideas of love, worth, and beauty. My attitude about life and others improved, but my attitude about myself worsened.
After several months of pursuing this young man, he accepted Christ. Not long after that, our friendship grew. We were soon ‘the best of friends’. We told each other everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. At least, that’s what I thought. I told him so much. I allowed him to become practically the only person I really talked to. He knew my secrets and we barely went a day without speaking. My parents tried to warn me about getting too close to him, but I ignored them.
Throughout this entire thing—being bullied, wrecking my life, etc.—there was a family that my family was getting to know. The dad was my brother’s scoutmaster, their mom was supermom, they had five kids, and they were a wonderful, Christian family. Age-wise, I landed in-between their daughter and second son. Their daughter and I were fast friends. My mom loved whenever I was around her—the biggest reason likely being that she was a very good influence on me. I looked up to her and wanted to be just like her. Not long after we met them, the family began getting involved with something called TeenPact. The three oldest kids came back from their first ‘state class’ excited about God, leadership and government. Pretty soon, they were encouraging me to go to state class the next year. But I held off and waited a year. I liked politics, but was wary. The class required a lot of pre-class homework, and both the homework and the class looked hard. I thought I would be too stupid for it. The next year, their mom got my mom to sign me up. There was no going back now: I was going to TeenPact.
I finally finished the not-quite-as-hard-as-I-had-made-it-out-to-be homework the week before class, and on the first week of March I carpooled west to my state capitol for my first-ever TeenPact state class. I was really nervous, but by the end of the first day, all signs of nervousness were wiped away. Each day kept getting better and better, and by the end of the week not only was I a fully turned TeenPacter, God was working an overhaul on my heart.
I was so excited about TeenPact and all it had to offer, I signed up to attend the National Convention—the first alumni event of the season—not too long after I got home from state class. And as soon as I discovered that elections for nine Representatives, four Senators, and a President and Vice President team were held each year, I signed up to run for Rep. I was going all in. For me, it was go big, or go home.
But the week before I went to NC, my mind began wander back to a place I hadn’t been to in a while. I began to let thoughts of those who bullied me and my years as a victim of bullying wander through my mind. My mom and I spent a lot of time talking about it and where I’d come from, where I was, and where I was going. On the way to the airport—and coincidentally during one of our conversations about these people—I saw a gorgeous rainbow. Sitting in my car, rain pelting on the window, and the glorious reds, yellows, oranges, and blues poking through the clouds, I had to take a picture. Little did I realize that the rainbow foreshadowed the keeping of God’s promises to me that would become clear that week.
I didn’t make it out of primaries with the elections, but by the end of National Convention, I almost forgot that I had even run. God had provided some amazing friends for me, but even better, He had held my hand and opened the door to a new season in my life: a season of healing. I can remember so clearly the night I let God take over my heart. We were in worship, and in between songs, the worship leader started talking about how we all have so many passions in our lives. But really, God needs to be our only passion. We need to lay aside all our worldly desires and thoughts and let God completely consume us. Tears ran down my face as I stood there, listening. It was if I was standing all by myself, in the middle of a room, and this guy was on the other end, talking specifically to me. As the next song started, the worship leader told us that if we needed to pray we most certainly should. Instinctively, I dropped to my knees, talking to God even as I was going down. All around me, one by one, I felt my friends drop to their knees as well. We all wrapped our arms around each other, forming a small circle right where we were, all praying. For ourselves, for each other, and for everyone around us we prayed. As I prayed, I begged God to help me: to help me make Him my only passion and to heal my heart. As I was praying, I felt a pull on my heart. I was moved to forgive. I needed to forgive. Not just those who bullied me: so many people in my life whom I had held a grudge against or just brushed off as unforgiveable. God did a lot in my heart at NC. But He still had a lot to do before the summer was over.
After National Convention, I decided to go to TeenPact Endeavor—an all-girls event. Ironically, I don’t think I would have normally chosen an all-girls event. But I could feel God leading me to go. So I went. There, God worked in my heart in two areas: my perception of self-worth and how I related to guys. Specifically, a certain guy who was my ‘best friend’. I walked into that week believing I was ugly. But God used some wonderful ladies there to show me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. It was during that week that God taught me that I was, in fact, beautiful. He reminded me that He doesn’t make ugly people and that thinking I was ugly was slap in His face. God also showed me that I needed to protect my heart—something I wasn’t doing. Not only did I need to protect my heart, I needed to give it completely over to Him to save especially for my future husband.
Throughout all these years of torture, lies, and then healing, God was doing work in my heart for something greater. At the age of 13, I began to acquire an interest in psychology. Something in me just wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves mentally. I discovered the Biblical Counseling major at my choice college: Bob Jones University. As time progressed, I began to pin down exactly what I was going to do. Recently, I’ve realized that God is calling me to youth ministry. Specifically, starting a ministry to become licensed as a foster parent and establish a safe house for troubled teens.
Remember when I mentioned that my mom was always telling me that God had a purpose and a plan in everything—even in my being bullied? I believe that this is His end purpose in all of that. As someone who was bullied and then spent years lying to myself about my image and worth I can relate on a broader scale to troubled youth. I will be able to look them in the eye and say: I understand. I’ve been there. I’m here to help. It is my hope and prayer that God is able to use me to help troubled youth.
I know that I won’t be able to reach everyone. I dearly wish I could. But if God can use me to help even just one person, it will be worth everything.
At a very nice beach, there were tons of butterflies. They were beautiful, and all who saw them loved them. One night, there was a terrible storm. The next morning, people woke up to discover hundreds of butterflies scattered across the beach: weighted down my sand, unable to fly, and dying before their very eyes. As people began to come onto the beach and survey the damage, some spotted a man walking very slowly down the beach, stooping frequently. Someone approached him to see what he was doing. The man was picking up each butterfly he came across, picking it up, brushing off its delicate wings, and releasing it into the air: alive and well. The person watched for a few moments: baffled. Finally he questioned the man. “Sir, what are you doing? Look at all the butterflies dying around you! You’ll never rescue enough to make a difference.” The man stood, a butterfly in his hand and looked the questioner in the eye. The man slowly and carefully brushed off the wings of the butterfly in his hand and released it. “I made a difference to that one.” He picked up another and did the same.
“And that one: I made a difference to him.”
It doesn’t matter as much how many we get to as whether we even try to get to them.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.