Life is not easy when you are the fat kid in Middle School. But in 1984, that is exactly who I was. I was a short, pudgy roly-poly with a bowl cut and glasses. Needless to say I was a very easy target for bullies.
I dreaded going to school. My days were a steady barrage verbal and physical abuse. There were many days that I walked home with my body covered in bruises. But, truth be told, it was my heart that hurt the most.
My dad, became concerned and gave me the pep talk that all fathers give to their kids who are being picked on. “If you just stand up for yourself one time, they will leave you alone”, he said. Seemed simple enough; and this theory was reinforced by the TV shows and movies I watched. I mean, come on, it worked for the Ralph Machio in the Karate Kid. It all added up. If I just took a stand, fought back just once, I would earn their respect.
So, the day came; the day I had made up my mind to take a stand. I can still remember it. I was sitting in Mrs. Isaacs’ 7th grade English class. My nemesis, sat down right in front of me. He turned and made some derogatory comment to me. “Shut your face!” I said in my toughest, pre-pubescent, cracking voice. He replied, “You better watch your mouth or you are going to get hurt.” Then reply that I can still hear echoing in my head, straight out of Rocky III, “Go for it!” I said. I threw down the gauntlet right there in 4th hour. Guess what was after 4th hour? Lunch – a time when teachers are for the most part, distracted. And guess who came looking for me? Uh huh. So, he asks me if I am ready to back up my big talk. This is my moment; the time where I finally break free from the bonds of bullying. I balled up my chubby little fist, reared back and with all the strength I could muster, threw it forward towards his nose. My punch landed square on its target. I had done it, I stood up to my bully and fought back; now the happy ending where he realized he now respects me and will leave me alone. Sadly, that only happens in movies. I wish I could describe in detail what happened next, but I lost track after his second and third punch blinded me with pain.
At that pivotal time in my life, I began to develop an extremely poor self-image. They say, when you hear something over and over again enough times, you begin to believe it. Day after day, I heard that I was worthless. It began ringing as truth in my head. It was a long battle that I fought to regain some self worth. I began finding my identity in Christ and in the talents that He had blessed me with. I began seeking His purpose for my life and through that He called me into the ministry at the age of 17.
But as soon as I began to see light at the end of a dark tunnel, life struck another devastating blow. That same year, my parents separated and eventually divorced. I had no words to describe my feelings. Divorce happened to other people’s parents; not mine. Everything that I knew to be stable for my entire life, was now crumbling around me. Through one of the toughest times of my life, God again was there to carry me.
I’ll save the details of the journey through those trials for another post because that is not the point I want to make right now. What I want to share with you here is that God has taken some of the ugliest situations in my life and used them for His glory.
I have now been in Student Ministry for over 20 years. And the vast majority of students that I minister to on a daily basis come from broken homes and/or are battling a poor self-image. Being able to honestly tell those students, I know how you feel is such a powerful thing when it comes to sharing God’s love with them. I never could have told you how valuable those tragic life lessons were going to be to my ministry when I was in the middle of them. But sitting here looking back, I can tell you that they have strengthened my ministry tremendously.
Throughout the Bible we see story after story of people who God allowed to go through touch times in life only to prepare them for future ministry.
Moses killed an Egyptian and fled into the Wilderness and became a shepherd. He went from dining at Pharaoh’s table into the wilderness. He “hid out” there for years, learning how to survive. Moses more than likely didn’t realize at that time that God was preparing Him though a difficult season of life. When God called Moses into service, where did he spend the majority of his time leading the People? In the wilderness.
David was a lowly shepherd boy. His brothers are off fighting for Israel; while David sits day after day guarding the sheep. I can’t help but think he had target practice with his sling shot in his time out in the field. Not just target practice, but killing lions and bears, O my! Even in the midst of being a lowly shepherd, God was honing David’s skills for his “coming out party” as he aimed that rock at the head of the Giant and set into motion his accent to being the Great King of Israel.
God has promised us in Romans 8:28 that He “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So often we want to misread that to say God causes only good things to happen to those who love Him. That is not the promise. The promise is that God can and will take ALL the things in our lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and work them together to make an end result that is good and beautiful and complete in Him.
The next time you are in the middle of one of life’s storms. Hold on, trust Him and remember, if you are His child, He takes all the experiences of our lives and makes something beautiful for His glory.
“All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
– Beautiful Things by Gungor