“Congratulations, Bonnie.” Angela made a point to affirm my win as the new Junior High Student Body President. She was running against me for office.
“My Mom and I have been praying for both of us and God’s will for the position. I guess He wanted you to have it.”
I don’t know if I ever heard a peer talk that way about God. I didn’t give it much thought, except to mock Angela. I’m not proud of it. I cocked my head and mocked her words in front of everyone.
I was quite the dichotomy during my Junior High years. I look back at those days as my “alien years”. I was shy and I was bold. I was sweet and I was mean. I would defend and protect those who were beaten up after school; while creating Slam Books to pass around the class.
Are you familiar with Slam Books? They were cute little notebooks with different peoples’ names written at the top of each page. Kids pass them around the classroom and everyone writes whatever they think about a person. Some kids have wonderful things written about them to boost their egos, while others are shred to pieces. It was terribly mean.
Religious would have been an accurate label to describe me. In 3rd grade I attended a Billy Graham Crusade with my Mom in Montgomery, Alabama. This shy little girl, in a crowd of thousands, got out of her chair and walked to the center of the stadium to receive Jesus in her life. We sang 8 stanzas of “Just as I Am”, and I tucked the free hymnal away with my keepsakes for years.
A gold cross still dangled around my neck in junior high. I didn’t cuss or drink or smoke, because I was literally afraid of God! Afraid He would be disappointed in me, or so angry He would zap me. So I went through the motions of religion; never grasping His grace, understanding His unconditional love, or knowing I could talk with Him about stuff like Student Council.
My Father was in the Air Force, so moving around the country was a way of life for our family. At the end of my 8th grade year, he was transferred to California. My parents stuffed two cars with their 6 kids and all of our pets, and drove 3,000 miles away from all my friendships and emotional comforts. It devastated me for months. I questioned the love of God.
It was too difficult being a stranger in high school and a stranger at a new church every week, so I asked my Mom to quit taking me to church. My Mother agreed– after we try one last church in our new hometown. I hid in the back row of the Sunday School room. The class was almost over and I was about to be free…no more church or added social pressure. But before the morning ended, a burly football player got up in front of the room and started to talk about Jesus. Mark talked about His love for God and the new joy Jesus gave him in his life.
What an incredible testimony he gave, and it stirred my heart to begin searching for God. Could it be that He isn’t just an angry, scary God— but a God of love and forgiveness? I knew this guy had something different going on with God, and it was not religion. I heard these words before I left, “If you seek Me, you will find Me, if you seek with all your heart.”
I got on my knees behind my closed bedroom door and told God I was going to believe those words. I was going to begin seeking; asking questions, looking in the Scriptures, talking to Him. I made a deal with God; if I was going to do the seeking, then He would need to let me find Him.
It wasn’t much later when I made a new decision to follow Jesus. I understood that following Him would mean making Him the Lord of my life. I was willing to step off my own ragged throne, and allow Jesus to become King and direct me. I got to know Him as my loving Father, and He and I took off running. His Word continues to change me from the inside out.
Over the years, God gently reveals to us the things we need to make right with people. Angela D. is one of those people. I have tried to search for her, because I want to say, “I’m sorry. I am sorry for being a mean girl; a girl who was too wrapped up in her own glory to recognize the beautiful humility of another. I am sorry for any pain I brought to you. And I pray God blesses your life for loving me like Jesus says.”
I want that brave Junior High girl to know I am grateful for her prayers. When you prayed God’s will would be done; you also prayed for me. You prayed more than you could have ever known; but the Holy Spirit knew. He interceded for both of us. I need to tell you, Angela and Mrs D., that the mean two-faced girl you prayed for loves Jesus now. I tell other girls about Jesus and His Truth that will set them free.
Mrs. D., you are an example to moms like me. We talk a lot about preventing and confronting bullies these days. But I don’t know if anyone says to pray for the bully or treat them with kindness. You had the courage to teach your daughter to live like Jesus in Junior High School. I am grateful for the seed you planted in my own confused young heart.
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27,28