Why is it that high school tries to define us for the rest of our lives? It’s like those years “brand us.” Like a cattle rancher who identifies his cattle by branding them, leaving a mark that’s permanent, high school seems to give us a similar branding, identifying who we are. We’ve probably all done it. When we run into an old high school classmate, or their picture pops up on our Facebook feed as “someone we might know” our minds have a way of taking us back to how we remember them in high school. We find ourselves saying, “gosh, in high school they were___________.
And it seems to me that those 4 years have such a huge impact on us. So much so that we spend the rest of our lives either trying to relive them, because they were so great or try to suppress the memories altogether, because those years were anything but great. I fall into the latter group. High school for me wasn’t great. I’d go as far as to say it was brutal! I’m 37 years post high school. I’ve had life experiences far worse than those experienced between 1979-1982. It is hard for me to explain, but those high school wounds just had a way of sticking with me in a different way than the wounds I’ve experience as an adult. Maybe a psychologist could explain it. Maybe it is because those are still such formative years. My theory as to why those 4 years stuck with me differently, as if I had been branded, is so God could use use them to show me who I really am.
I could share a lot of specific details with you about the circumstances that made those 4 years brutal, but I don’t think that would serve any purpose. Instead of all the details, instead of a full buffet of reasons why I’ve tried to suppress those 4 years, I’ll offer a lighter lunch.
I was a student who struggled academically
School was hard for me. I was held back in the 4th grade to try and get caught up. I had to study and study and study, to squeak out a C average. In high school my classes were in general math, not algebra or calculus and earth science, not chemistry. I didn’t really even consider college because I was told by a well meaning high school counselor that I wasn’t college material. In the early 80’s the push for a post high school education was a 4 year degree. Trade schools weren’t really a thing. And so, to some extent, the counselor was right. I probably would not have been successful at a 4 year university. My knowledge level was not college ready.
I was a student who struggled socially. I was an introvert, and desperately wanted NOT to be.
I wanted to be popular. I know that this is true for a lot of kids in high school. I wanted to be accepted by and hang out with the cool kids. There was this coveted inner circle that was guarded and you entered by invitation only. It consisted of those popular kids. You know the ones. They wore the coolest, most fashionable clothes with designer labels. They had Nike tennis shoes (back in the 80’s that was a BIG deal.) They were the cheerleaders, who were chosen by the student body which had popularity contest written all over it, and the jocks. Is that even a term anymore? If you don’t know what that means, it’s the star athletes. Anyway, they held the keys to this inner circle. I wanted an invitation. I wanted to be handed a key. I wanted to sit at the lunch table where all things cool happened. I wanted it so badly that I did some pretty stupid things to earn their favor. And for a short while I was actually a part of this inner circle. Until I wasn’t. Until they asked for their key back and shut the door. Until I was denied the right to sit at their lunch table.
This introvert withdrew and spent the rest of my high school years trying to figure out where I belonged. I tried to find the kind of friends a true introvert needs, but I also avoided making eye contact with people for fear of the rejection that might follow. In my brokenness, I tried to BE a friend, which I wasn’t all that good at. I know I hurt other people too. And when graduation time in May of 1982 rolled around, I still hadn’t figured out who my “people” were.
Well, except for one. There was this one cute guy that I really liked spending time with. He happens to be my husband of 36 years.
I was a student who struggled at home.
My dad was a disciplinarian from the word go. I was constantly trying to please him. And never could. I continually walked on egg shells trying to keep the peace with him. Avoiding conflict the best I could. My dad was a broken man who had never figured out how to deal with his own past. Because he didn’t know Jesus, he was ruled by another. He controlled our home with an iron fist and intimidation. Now, as an adult, and because of my relationship with Jesus, I have forgiven my dad. But when I was a teenager, I hated him. A lot.
(I feel compelled here to say that I always felt very loved and cared for by my mom. That women is a gift from God, who in the midst of trying to deal with my dad, managed to love 4 children exceptionally well. I am the mom and Nana I am today by God’s grace and her example, and I love her so much)
Now that you have a little insight into “who I was” in high school, you can probably conclude who I wasn’t.
I wasn’t popular. I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t an achiever. I wasn’t at the cool lunch table. Actually, I wasn’t at any lunch table as I skipped lunch most days. I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t chosen for anything. I wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Its strange how you can feel invisible and at the same time feel like all of those branding iron identifiers follow you around with neon brightness.
School was hard. Home was hard. Social connections were slim. Not only was the inner circle with the popular kids gone, there was no inner circle, period. The identities that hung from each shoulder were “stupid” and “socially awkward” and the one tied around my waist was “not chosen.”
Until I wasn’t.
I believed I was those things until God showed me I wasn’t. I believe He allowed those hurts to dig deep into my being, to brand me, so that later, he could pull them to the surface and annihilate them. Healing the scars that the branding iron had left.
God, in His indescribably love for me, tenderly took ahold of my downturned face, slowly lifted my chin, brushed my hair back, made me look into His eyes and said:
YOU. ARE. MINE. I GET TO DEFINE WHO YOU ARE.
He has used His Word as a skin graft and healing balm to, one by one, completely cover the scars that were left behind by the branding irons of high school.
But to all that did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave them the right to become children of God. ~John 1:12 I am HIS DAUGHTER. The one and only God, the One who spoke creation into existence, the great I AM, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who walked with Adam and Eve. The only One who has the authority and power to redeem mankind from the fall. The One who will one day create a new Jerusalem where there will be no need for the sun, because His glory will provide all the light we need, the One who will make all things new. The God who parted the red sea and saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from burning to death in the fire, and shut the mouths of hungry lions. Yea, well, that’s my Father. Can I get an AMEN?
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they will be my people. ~Hebrews 8:10
I now know who my people are. Because I belong to God, God’s people, are my people. My brothers and sisters in the Lord. Here and now, we have the blessing of fellowshipping with a group of believers. Some more closely and deeply than others. And that ebbs and flows as God weaves different brothers and sisters in and out of our lives. But I also believe that “then and there” on the other side of this world, we will have the opportunity to be ever growing our friendships with countless followers of Jesus. And that sounds like a whole lot of fun.
Even as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons and through Jesus Christ, according to the purposes of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. ~Ephesians 1:4-6 I have indeed been chosen and I have been on His radar for a long, long time!
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ~Proverbs 2:1-5 I may never be book smart. And that’s ok. God has gifted other believers with brilliant minds to do things and figure things out, that He has chosen them for. For His glory. But you know what? I’m not stupid. With the Holy Spirit as my Teacher and my Tutor, I’m a pretty decent student of the Word of God where wisdom and understanding regarding the fear of the lord and the knowledge of God are revealed to me. So for all the books I’ll never understand, that keep me from being college ready, there is one book that I do understand. It has made me heaven ready and that is more than enough for me.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. ~2nd Corinthians 13:14 I just happen to be well acquainted with the coolest inner circle there has ever been or will ever be. It’s called the Trinity. It’s the most amazing, mind blowing, jaw dropping, awe inspiring and encouragement giving, hope filled inner circle that I could ever have access to.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” ~Revelation 19:6-9 Oh my goodness, what a picture that paints! If we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are headed for one grand and glorious celebration. The marriage supper of the Lamb. A wedding reception of epic proportions. Where the bride of Jesus, those who have been purified and made righteous through the sacrificial blood of Christ, will have supper with their Groom. That gives me goosebumps! And what is usually at a marriage celebration where food is served? A table. A table in the biggest cafeteria we can imagine and everyone there will be our brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve been invited. They have been invited. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we were handed the key. We get to sit at the table and dine with Jesus himself. The fun and the fellowship we will experience there, I don’t think we can truly wrap our heads around. And at this table, my friends, there will never be an end to “all the cool things.”
Even though the memories of high school remain, the scars are gone. For I have been rebranded. I know who I am and I know to whom I belong. I have my inner circle. I have a seat at His table. I have wisdom and understanding revealed to me from the best Teacher I’ve ever had. I no longer do stupid things to win the approval of those around me. I already have the approval (through Christ) of the only One who matters. I feel at ease in my own introverted skin……. most of the time. I can still feel socially awkward, and that’s ok – it is just the nature of an introvert. And I no longer walk on egg shells around my Father. For He is a good Father, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness …” (Nehemiah 9:17) And He disciplines me appropriately when I need it.
I’m not sure what scars you are carrying. Yours will be different than mine. Maybe they aren’t from high school. Maybe they are from last week or yesterday. But if you need a little skin grafting done, I know a Great Physician who can take care of that for you!