Life is not easy when you are the fat kid in Middle School. I know that, because 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.
My dad, seeing my dilemma, 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 saw Peter Brady stand up to the bully on the “Brady Bunch”. I watched Arnold on “Diff’rent Strokes” take on The Gooch. And 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 4rd 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 it, 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. That same year, my parents separated and eventually divorced. I was devastated. 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.
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. That 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