Birthday parties would be thrown and no one would show up, save the 2 girls I went to church with. I would often go to the playground and go to play games only to literally be pushed into the mud, and wind up in the nurses office to get cleaned up, begging them to not tell my mom. Bloody noses were not an abnormal occurance for me. Being bullied, was the norm for me.
I did not know that no one had the right to put me in that position. I didn't know that no one had the right to put their own space on this planet as more important than my space. They did not have the right to crowd me out, so that they could make their space more comfortable. They only had the right to make their own space more comfortable with in their own, not at the expense of anothers. But I believed them. With each force, I gave in, and before long, I had no space left. I let them crowd me into a space that had no room to grow, and no room to expand, and no room to live. I believed I was stupid, I believed I was retarded, and I believed I was worthless.
Then, I moved away ... and an odd thing happened, I did well in school ...REALLY well. I made it into the gifted programs and got excellent grades. I had friends. LOTS of them. My 13th birthday party I had over 20 girls at it. Fitting in seemed strange, to me. What happened, how did *I* change? I didn't understand. I went back to my home town for the beginning of 8th grade and it almost started again, but the kids found they could not push me around. I'd learned to walk with my shoulders up. I never quite fit in, but they no longer could crowd in on me.
I moved to another state in late October ...and found the same thing I'd found in 7th grade. Lots of friends, good grades, teachers with confidence in my skills ... and no problems with fitting in. What had been wrong with me in the early years? I did not understand.
I never did get it. I still only partially get it. It wasn't me ... I was simply the target of someone who didn't like something they saw in me ... and became the punching bag. *I* became the cycle of others problems ... I was NOT the problem ...they had the problem. Not me. Had it been me, it would have followed me to church, and it did not. Had it been me, it would have followed me to the community, it did not. Had it been me, it would have followed me to the other schools ...and it did not. Had it been me ...it would have followed me. I was only bullied in that one school setting. In that one town ... in that one 5 year period. Only in that one town .. not in girls scouts ..not in church ..not in church.
It took me years to see that. But the severity of it took it's toll.
I managed to get past it, as much as any bullied child can ...
And then Friday ... It came back to me. In a flash, I was brought back to my knees, at the mud hole, with my face being pushed down into the mud by the school yard bully who hated me because she saw something in me she wanted for herself, but couldn't, or didn't have herself. Instead of handling it in a healthy way, she chose to lash out at me, and stab me in my most vunerable manner. She did it a month before, but I had not seen it till yesterday. An anonymous note left on my facebook account ... and it cut to the very heart of who I am as a person, to my character, to my very being. It took me back to that 10 year old little girl whom no one loved and no one cared for. That everyone picked on, and no one loved. It knocked the wind out of my sails and I reacted with fear and terror and I ran to the nurses office in my muddy dress, torn tights and bluddy nose.
The note read:
"you're nuts, stupid, and immature. No one really likes you or having you around. They tolerate you because the boys think you're fun to have around. No one in the church likes you and would be happpy to have you leave. Most people think you're the biggest fraud to hit southpark."
I contacted my youth pastor and said I'd never come back to the youth ministry, and wasn't sure how I'd come back to the church, I'd finish my children's ministry commitment, and beyond that, I wasn't sure how I'd step back in the door. I got an immediate, with in minutes call from him. He assured me that it was an attack by someone who was jealous, and immature attack, by someone who saw something in me that they wanted that they did not have and they wanted. It was a spiritual attack because I was being effective in ministry.
My husband asked me to please read the note in the light of the truth of God's word. Stop, think, listen ... Read it ..carefully Examine your heart ...Be still and know that HE is God ...
So I did ... and a few hours later ... I wrote a response to every member of my church on my facebook ...
There are a few things that are known to cause issues with self esteem. They are universal. People who have chronic illnesses tend to have issues with self esteem. Knowing that your body does not function as well as otherwise healthy people can make you worry what others think of you, especially if they don’t know that you’re ill, or they don’t understand your illness (es).
Being overweight is another one. Being overweight is an issue that damages most people’s self esteem. Not being attractive, not being what people think you should be. Not being what you want to be. Having others think if you just ‘did things the right way’ and knowing that no one knows the junk you go through … but knowing they all think they do and if you’d just straighten up, you’d be ok and be what they think you should be causes most women, especially, severe self esteem issues.
Living in poverty is a big self esteem shatter. It is the biggest shame in the USA today. There is no excuse as far as most people are concerned. No one really understands how, in this world of opportunity, why anyone could be poor. Yet, there is a whole third of our nation that is poor. A large number of those poor are poor because of chronic health conditions out of their control.
Any person, who lives with any one of these issues, has a battle on their hands. Combine one with another, and they really have to fight …if they have them all, keeping their head above water is something only God can do. Trying to keep the balance between educating people who are truly interested, and ignoring those whose only intent is to judge, is truly juggling act only the wise can achieve. To try to explain to those who just want to judge you is foolish. To not explain to those who are interested, and want to understand means they may miss out on a blessing and you may miss out on a friendship
These feelings are mostly universal for people living with these issues. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far in between. Many people, with a relationship with God, and learn to deal with their fears, face them and work to serve God either in the face of their fears or in spite of their fears. They either overcome their fears or, their fears get shoved to the background to remain dormant.
I, live with all three of these conditions. For me, I don’t just have one chronic illness, I live with many. They aren’t just mild ones, they are quite severe and disabling. People don’t see me when I’m very sick, because I stay home, because I have no choice. When you can’t put one foot in front of the other, you have no choice. When you can’t lift the fork from the table to your mouth, you have no choice. For every 5 good days, I have 2 bad days. I have not gone 3 weeks without having to pay the piper in the 18 years that I’ve been sick. People see me at Church walking fine and smiling and laughing ..but they do not see the days that I spend in bed because of the activities that I do at church. My family does. My family have often had to pay the price for my activities at church.
I give my time, my energy and my faithfulness to the church, and I love it. I have a passion burning so deep inside me that I can’t even begin to express what I feel. It is not a desire to be active. It is not a desire for people to see me working (I’d prefer no one notice, that’s why I am often doing behind the scenes jobs). It is not a desire to be in the middle of people. My favorite times have often been on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, when no one has been in the church, doing my job. I have a passion to serve God and to make sure that His message is spread …both to those who do not know him, and to those who do know him.
What brought me to Southpark to stay was the banner across the Sanctuary that read “To give support to people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”. That burned into my heart. My heart aches when I see hurting hearts. The idea that girls would grow up and fight some of the battles that I have fought, terrifies me to my toes. That boys would grow up and not know that they are the sons of the almighty God, and that they have a mission from God to be the gentlemen that God desires of them breaks my heart. When I see a child, or a teenager who doesn’t know that they are a child of the almighty God ..created in HIS likeness … my heart aches. When I see an adult, who has been shattered by the life that they have lived, I can feel their pain, and all I want to do is to find SOMETHING to do to help to ease their pain in some way. Through prayer, through helping with the praise and worship team, helping to serve their children …anything ..even if they don’t know that I am doing something.
Many times, I work hard, and don’t want anyone to know how badly I’m hurting, physically. How tired I am, or, that I’m having a hard time physically doing the job that others are doing. I try to keep up with those who have healthy bodies and do the things that the others are doing. I walk at the same speeds and I keep up with everyone else. Then, I wind up in significant pain, and I wind up spending two to three days in bed to pay for it. There have been times that I have almost wound up in the hospital after an event at church. There have been MANY times where I’ve had to take high doses of steroids to deal with the fall out of such an event. (the senior banquet I served at, I was in bed for 3 days, and had to take 2 weeks of high doses of steroids because of what the effort of ‘being normal’ did.)
When I do take care of myself, and make it be known that I can’t keep up, it never fails that someone will say something to me. “I have an aunt who has lupus.” “I had a friend’s mom who had lupus” “I had a friend with myasthenia gravis” (which, is highly unlikely …only 37,000 Americans have myasthenia gravis) and it’s always followed by “and they work full time and no one ever knows they’re sick.” It’s a direct put down of me not having a job and not doing as much work as others around. I have heard this from adults in the church, and a few teenagers. One comment like this, and I tend to make sure that I do not let my health show for as long I can.
I have been in the bathroom stall when I heard my family referred to as “Trailer Trash” and I’ve been told to my face that I was a drain on the church resources.
I have lived a personal struggle with food, and food related issues, weight and fear. An eating disorder that has been an issue since I was 14 and has done more damage to my body than I can even begin to explain has been the biggest spiritual, emotional and physical battle than I could ever have imagined. To someone just looking at me, they’d think I just overeat and I should take care of that, but no one knows the struggle that goes on in my therapy, or that has gone on in the years that has attributed to my issues. They don’t know the fear or the panic. They don’t know that I am afraid to eat in public, they don’t know that I don’t enjoy food. They don’t know what my family knows … that I hate food. I never enjoy food and if asked what my favorite food in a group is, I’d make something up because I don’t have a favorite food. I have food I tolerate better than others.
I think, the biggest obstacle that I face is the one of poverty. It is the one that is least acceptable. While weight is an issue that is sociologically frowned on, it effects people of all social classes, and races. People get over it, and get past it. I can hide my illnesses for the most part if I don’t take care of myself and hide when I feel really bad.
But the poverty … I can only hide it by not participating or letting my children participate. In order for my children to participate, we have to ask for scholarships, and that, gets old. Very old, but, my children should not have to pay for our inability to pay for their involvement. So we ask, they ask … it gets done. Thankfully, we go to a church where it is available.
Many churches do not allow those who do not ‘give until it hurts’ to participate in ministry. And the church decides where the hurting point is, not the family. Southpark has been different from the start. They looked first at my heart, my love for God …and never at my pocketbook. To be allowed to serve God in spite of my poverty has never ceased to amaze me. I have never ever stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop. “If you want to continue serving in this manner, your giving must increase” Every time I’d volunteer for something new, I’d expect to be told no, because I did not put enough in the offering plate, and my children were scholarshipped on too many events. The flip side was the fear that I’d be told “In order for them to get you have to do this”
Never … not once … did either of those happen. Instead, I have been encouraged to participate where my gifts and talents could grow and develop. Sometimes pushed out of the box, but not for the sake of some benefit of Southpark, but of benefit of my decipleship of Jesus Christ.
In the general public, I feel often like a second class citizen. Like I’m less than worthy of being an American citizen. Like I’m not worth what I should be. When I’ve walked through the doors of Southpark, I have felt accepted and that has never ceased to surprise me. In spite of my lack of health, my weight and my socioeconomic status … I am allowed to minister. Like the widow with 2 mites, I give what I can and it’s ok.
Like Peter, I came to Southpark with no money to give but willing to give what I had. “Silver and God have I none, but such as I have give I thee.” Southpark accepted me, warts and all, lack of money and all, and let me serve. Unlike many churches that expect people to be the picture perfect, healthy and wealthy and wise … I was used where I was.
I now find out that I have unwittingly hurt someone. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. My intent has never been to do anything but to love, to share with those around me the gifts that God has given me. To support others to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
To whomever it was that left the message, I’m sorry you feel the way you do. I hope and pray that you are wrong, that not everyone at Southpark hates me so, and wants me gone. I am sorry that you feel I am a fraud, but I am not. I simply don’t have enough energy to be a fraud. There is not a person who is a member of my facebook friends list that I do not truly love with the love of Christ. I pray for each of you daily, and my heart aches for you when I see you hurting.
I was left a message privately, and anonymously, and I am responding rather publicly because I don’t know who left it. They also imply that others feel the way they do. I pray that they are wrong. Please know, that whatever it is that caused you to lash out at me, I’m sorry. You are in my prayers, each of you in my facebook, and now that I know that I’ve hurt one of you, I will be praying all the more and trying all the more to show the love of God, to be more genuine, to be more of Jesus to those around me.
Please know ..that nothing any of you could do or say could cause me not to love you. I forgive you. I love you.
So then, I went through my facebook ... and I read a few things that a few of my friends had said about me ...most of them ... also left ...anonymously ...
'Honest'. 'Loyal'. 'Entertaining'. 'Humble'.'Playful'. 'Gentle'. 'Thoughtful'. 'Kind'.
"You make me believe in myself. Thank you."
"With everything you've been through, you have an amazing attitude. Good for you!"
Ok, so, obviously, not everyone feels the way the one poster did. I'd also gone to my youth ministry forum, where there was a bandwagon full of people who immediately, in the middle of their workday, jumped to my defense ... in a spiritual group hug, they picked me up, washed off the blood and the mud, and they cleaned me up, wiped off the wounds, and they helped me to see where I am, and helped me to remember who I am in Christ ...and slowly throughout the day, I got my equilibrium back.
By the end of the day, I started to think about the people on the facebook list ... why are they there ...I feel personally invested in each life. There is not ONE single person on my list that I do not truly love. I think they all have a call on their life ...and God has great things in store for them ... whoever it is, is broken ...and desperately needs our prayers.
So, I found a way to have a direct response ...
I don't know who you are, but you have to be one of the females in my friend list, so it narrows it down.
There is not one girl on my friends list that I do not truly care for and love with the love of Christ. I pray for each of you daily and desire God's will for You.
I just wanted you to know that the letter that I wrote to my church family does apply to you and was written specifically for you.
I will be lifting you up in prayer and whatever hurts you have that have caused you to lash out like this.
There is nothing that you could do or say that could cause me not to love you. Those are not shallow words, those are not words echoed because I'd heard them spoken too many times. You were invited to be my friend, or I accepted your invitation of friendship on Facebook, because I cared for you and was interested in your life. I felt invested in the life you live and desired to support you to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Hate me if you will. That is between you and God. Loving you is my job. And I do.
But by this morning ... my feelings had evolved even more.
I'd had a chance to evaluate as Don had asked, and Ryan had asked. Evaluate me in the light of the truth ...
A couple of my girls had responded to my note ...and so, I responded to them:
Thank you so much Melissa and Candace. I was a severely bullied child. I've worked hard to get past feeling like that picked on child. It's not easy and is amazing how that can haunt you clear into adulthood.
Reading that note brought me clear back to the 5th grade again and made me feel so small, worthless and unworthy to even be human.
It's a shame that someone feels so bad about themselves that they felt it necessary to make someone else feel that way. After much praying, and seeking some wise counsel, talking with Ryan as well, I realized that it was an attack, not just on me, but a spiritual attack as well. (Just as Melissa pointed out here.)
I am praying for that person in earnest that they would see the plan that God has for them so that they would not feel the need to lash out at someone else.
The prayers of a righteous man availeth much.
The note knocked me to my knees for a few minutes. You could confirm that with Ryan or Don. Then Don started to ask me to examine my life. To look at the fruit in my life. I've had many prayers answered, from my family life being healed, to my house, to the number of friends that I have.
There is fruit in my life, therefore, the fraud part could not be true. That knocks the sails out of the note right there. The stupid, well, she can think that if she wants, but I know differently. I know that I'm intelligent, I've had a book published and that's not easy. I know what my grades were in school ... I know what smart is ...
Immature ... well ... that's a matter of opinion and there is a lot to be said for fighting aging.
Nuts ... I work hard at being nuts. That is why I have tons of friends and I have too many friends in my phone and I have to hide at times.
So, the note has lost it's power today.
I know who I am in Christ
So, the reality as it stands right now ... I do know who I am. I am not that little girl, bloody and bruised. My Christ took that on the Cross for me. He bore that. He buried in the tomb and it stayed there in the ressurection.
I learned something in the last 36 hours ... I might fall down, but I won't stay down. I'm protected by the full Armour of God. And I have friends that will hold me up in prayer and lift up my heart when I'm too wounded to do so and help me to remember who I am until I can stand again.