What did I really stuff in my seventh-grade locker?

Oh, the junior high years can be brutal, can’t they? My seventh-grade year was probably the most difficult year of junior high. My vision seemed to change weekly. I would get adjusted to a certain level of vision and then I would lose a little more and have to adjust all over again. This resulted in confusion, frustration, and several emotional outbursts. I couldn’t seem to control anything that was happening to me. I was angry a lot. I was moody a lot. This is normal expected behavior from a pre-teen hormonal basket case. But you add in ever-changing eyesight, trying to locate where my locker was in a sea of metal and combination locks, and hoping I was going into the correct classroom when I couldn’t see the tiny numbers… then you’ve got a real storm brewing.

As my vision deteriorated, I had to start using large print books. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that they were the size of world atlases. So needless to say, I did not walk down the halls of my middle school unnoticed. Soon the bullying began. Girls making snide remarks about how simply awful it would be to have my eyesight. Oh they would just die if they had it, Like ‘fer sure!’ Speaking in their totally rad valley-girl lingo and trying to fit through the classroom doorways with six foot bangs. The boys did their best impressions of me running into doors or other people as I walked by them, hoping that somehow I WOULD be able to see them.

I endured and I ignored all the hurtful words slung at me… or so I thought. Each day that passed brought new hurtful comments and run-of-the-mill staple remarks that the not so creative kids had to rely on to get their digs in. I always felt that I was on the sidelines of everything in those years. I always got picked last for the kickball teams, there always seemed to be the “aww man, does she have to be on our team?” after the gym teacher assigned teams. I did have friends and we hung out together often. But I was never going to be at the “cool kid” lunch table. I would usually take my lunch out to the hallway and sit against the wall with a couple of friends who didn’t feel part of the “in” crowd either. We talked and laughed and forgot about the “cool kid” lunch table for a while.

There was an incident that happened one day that I remember very well. I was walking down the hall feeling frustrated with my circumstances… again, when a particular boy named Josh made some hurtful comment. Truth be told, I don’t remember what the comment was, but I definitely remember my response. I stopped in my tracks, turned around, and promptly stuffed Josh in his own locker. I know, I know, your mouth probably just fell open. You may have even gasped. I DO NOT advocate this form of retaliation or any form of it for that matter! But my eleven-year-old way of thinking told me it’s what he deserved.

Now as an adult, I revisit this memory with a different perspective. I felt so much angst and frustration over my blindness and I never really told anyone how I felt. I stuffed all my feelings down and ignored them. Then ironically, I exploded in anger after I had no more room to stuff anything and stuffed poor Josh in a place where there was not enough room for him. It seemed that I was a champion stuffer. I wanted to stuff the comments Josh had made to me by stuffing him. But ya know what? It didn’t help. Inflicting pain, embarrassment or shame onto someone else never resolves how we feel. After I had time to calm down from the hurtful words, I then felt bad for doing to Josh what he had done to me. When we feel like we are drowning in an ocean of tears, we must seek higher ground. Psalm 61;2 says “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint. lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (ESV) The Lord has promised higher ground for us when things feel deeper then we can handle. I picture in my mind a space filling with water. The water represents the negativity I feel. That may include feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, not good enough, clumsy, incapable, and the list can go on. I then picture a set of steps going up to higher ground. As I focus on those steps that lead to the way Jesus views me, before I know it, I’m on higher ground and the waters are no longer swirling around my feet… ankles… knees… thighs…

I do my best at a task that I feel God has called me to do. If my best is under attack by someone, I have to be ready to tell them that if my best isn’t what they had in mind, then they need to take it up with God. Not many people are willing to do that. When we honestly give our best but it doesn’t seem to measure up to someone’s expectations, we need not retaliate or exhaust ourselves trying to do better. Step up onto that higher ground and let Jesus set your feet on the rock who IS Jesus.

Just like Josh, many other people feel the need to put others down to reach a different form of higher ground. This ground actually causes them to sink. Jesus’s higher ground need not be built over top of someone else. He is the higher ground we can stand on. When you or maybe your teen/tweenager feels overwhelmed in an ocean, envision the higher ground Jesus has built just for you. Journal about what it looks like to you, write about how beautiful it looks. If your artistic, draw or paint this image and keep it close to you so it’s a reminder. At the top of the steps leading to my higher ground is my best friend Jesus, extending His hand to help me to His higher ground.

By the way, I forgave Josh and all the others who felt the need to make me feel less than, unimportant, and broken a long time ago. This allowed me to begin my journey to higher ground. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, don’t stuff those feelings into a locker to be locked up. Share them with a trusted friend and share them with Jesus. He will begin building your steps to higher ground.

P.S. I would love to hear what your higher ground image looks like.

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