My high school class is planning a little get-together for next weekend. Not an official reunion, you know, just a “Hey guys, who’s available to get together on Saturday and hang out? Bring your kids . . .” sort of thing.
It’s amazing how something this simple can bring up all the insecurities I thought I was past.
I graduated from high school in 1997– that’s 18 years ago, for those of you who stink at math. Half my life has happened since graduation– by far the best half. I found my people in college– the people who were so scarce in high school– and I thrived. I found a man who loved and accepted the person I was– the person who was just a big ball of neurotic insecurity wrapped up in a chubby, loud, crazy-girl persona. I guess at some point I decided that if I couldn’t be the pretty one, I was going to be the fun and funny one.
16 years of being loved by a godly man, of walking with God and with that man through tragedy and grief, of seeing the path of our lives carefully laid before our unsteady feet, of choosing to face the “for worse” and the “in sickness” with inappropriately-timed humor, of always holding hands and saying “I love you” so we don’t end up like those people on TV who fail to say it and then die tragically before they can make things right– well, that kind of love gives a woman a confidence she might not have had before.
Since my high school graduation I have graduated again and watched my husband graduate three times. I have been pregnant five times and given birth to three children, whom I have raised with a certain amount of success to their current ages. I have been to China, to Mount Rushmore, to the Space Needle, to the St. Louis Arch, to a whole bunch of little Baptist churches in small Iowa towns. I have learned to cook from scratch, to French braid, to teach high school English, to play piano, to laugh (sometimes) at times to come. I have read hundreds of books, traveled hundreds of miles, taught one and a half children to read, two children to do long division, and three children to pee in the toilet. I have changed diapers and cleaned up vomit in the middle of the night, stressed over money and calories and weird rashes and potty training. I have thrown balls, danced princess dances, gone to recitals, held kids down during shots, argued with insurance companies, scrubbed out toilets with toothbrushes.
I have walked with God, by His grace, and learned that His goodness and sufficiency are so much greater than I ever could have understood at eighteen. I have experienced mercy, forgiveness, victory, and the overwhelming love of a Father for His precious child. I have experienced doubt, rebellion, defeat, and distance. I have always been brought home. I know who God says I am in Jesus, and I believe it– I am Redeemed, Beloved, Accepted, Adopted, Chosen, Precious, and Victorious. My identity is in Him.
So tell me why a simple “Hey guys, let’s get together” has me all in a tizzy? It reveals something about my heart– that in spite of what I just said about my identity, I am still afraid of what others think about me. I was not the cool kid in high school. My family moved when I was 16 and my whole life changed dramatically. I moved away from friends I loved and who accepted me no matter what, to a place where I knew no one. I wasn’t accepted there.
The two and a half years I attended that school were probably the worst two and a half years of my life. I was an overweight nerd in a pretty serious rebellion against my parents. I went to a Christian school and I wasn’t trying very hard to look like a good Christian girl, so I didn’t fit in with the cool kids. That’s the weird mentality of a Christian school. Now don’t get me wrong– I had friends– friends I loved and who loved me– but none of us were cool and all of us were the target of some pretty unkind stuff. And even though my senior year was better and I made friends with a wider group of kids and I felt less like a pariah, I still remember the hurts and the feelings that I just would never fit in. And when I think about going back– to people who only remember High School Erin– well, I’m afraid that’s how they still think of me. Pimply, fat, unlovable, loud. Unable to fit in, no matter how hard I try.
Isn’t it interesting how we let other people define us?
And isn’t it interesting how those relationships affect our view of ourselves after so many years?
I’m afraid of not fitting in with my former high school peers– what if I’m still the awkward fat kid? What if my awkward homeschooled children don’t fit in? I drive an old minivan and my clothes are all from the thrift store. My husband is a pastor of a tiny church in a town no one has heard of. I have never once taken a fancy vacation to a big city or the Caribbean. What if I don’t measure up?
And it’s not just the friends from high school who bring out the insecurity– it’s the other pastors’ wives, whose churches are bigger and whose ministries seem to be so much more effective. It’s the other homeschooling moms whose 10 kids are all geniuses and perfectly well-behaved. It’s the women in my church who have all lived in Tiny Town for their whole lives and know everyone and everything.
Do you see what happens here? I love my life. I am right where God wants me. I have good friends, a wonderful husband, and children that delight me at least as often as they infuriate me. My pantry is full and so is my closet. My days are filled with so many blessings. And my identity is in a Savior who accepts me, loves me, and gives grace for every single challenge.
But instead of focusing on these realities, I so often focus on the opinions of others– real or imagined. I worry– am I dressed okay? Do I sound like an idiot? Do any of these people even like me? What if I am hurting my husband’s ministry? Did I overshare? I’ll never fit in with the other homeschooling moms; I don’t have enough kids. I’ll never fit in with the public school moms either. Do I even have a place? Why did I wear my hair like this? What if everyone is just being nice to me because they pity me?
I know it’s not just me. In fact, I expect that the majority of the other people from the class of ’97 saw that little Facebook post about getting together and started making plans for getting their hair done or crash dieting to get a few pounds off. All of us have insecurities. The good thing about my Savior is that He meets us right here where we are– and He says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in your weaknesses.” In other words, all that stuff I’m freaking out about, all the weaknesses and insecurities– that is exactly where God’s power is. So if people see my weakness– if they see that I’m afraid of their opinion or that some part of me is still a pimply seventeen-year-old girl who will literally do anything for acceptance– well, that’s right where they’ll see God’s power. His glory. Because He is transforming all of that into something beautiful.
I know who I am. I know who my Savior is. My arms are full, my belly is full, my heart is full. In Him I am exactly who I am created to be, and so I can go with confidence to wherever He takes me– whether it’s the grocery store, Sunday morning church, a homeschool convention, or a high school reunion.
He is everything about me that matters. And that truth frees me from my insecurities.
“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”
**********Edited to Add**********
I am afraid that this post comes across as unjust to the people I know from high school, many of whom I am Facebook friends with. I want to clarify that so many of my issues during that time of my life (and during all the OTHER times of my life) were coming from me– the way I perceived what people said and did, my defensiveness, my choices that alienated me from others. I expect that many of the people who hurt me in high school had no idea how their words affected me, and that a lot of them would be appalled to learn it now. And this is the truth– I have forgiven all of it, forgotten most of it, and made peace with my past. My insecurities that spring from those experiences have proven to be opportunities to grow, to minister, to reach out, to bless others, to pray harder.
High school is part of my story. I would not be who I am today without those pieces to the puzzle. God is good and He can redeem EVERY part of every story. Look at the verse in my sidebar. That’s truth right there. All things. Together for good.
No regret. No condemnation. Only Grace.