Speaking of awkward growth, I've got to admit something. Something that God has been working on for a while with me- something that's a little tender to write about. I still have hurts from high school. Now, before you write me off- or laugh me off- for saying that, ask yourself:
Do you have hurts from high school? I bet you do. Even if you were the skinniest, prettiest, most popular girl in high school, I bet you have memories that still sting you. Despite what the movies tell us, it's not just the "nerds" who get their feelings hurt and it's not just the "popular kids" landing the blows. People, of all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of GPA's and extra-curricular activities, sin against each other and burn each other.
So back to my awkward growth. Maybe your hurts from high school were dealt with in a timely manner. Maybe you addressed your fears and sought reconciliation. Or maybe you're like me and you tried to stuff some of it under the rug. Maybe you made it your job to find a distraction from those awkward feelings, whether your "drug of choice" was a new boyfriend or a perfect SAT score or beer pong every weekend.
I tried out a number of strategies. They all brought temporary relief, but eventually revealed their inability to deliver me from the pain. Even after I found a new area of the country and a whole new "people group", those hurtful memories remained. I was wrong in thinking they would "just go away". I was also wrong in thinking that if I could roll my eyes about where "they" chose for college or what "they" liked to do on the weekends, I'd be able to write off the hurt they had made me feel. Sooner or later I realized that all those strategies were a bit self-defensive. They were a bit dishonest. They were a bit idolatrous.
Here's what I mean. When I take the protection of my heart into my own hands, I have to come up with all kinds of dishonest ways to do it. I have to avoid those who hurt me. I have to write them off. I have to become bitter and resentful. I realized that by doing those things, I was actually refusing to put my trust in God- because putting my trust in God would mean letting myself feel those hurts, acknowledging the damage done to my soul, and probably having a lot of awkward conversations! And I was not about to give "them" the satisfaction of letting them know they hurt me. Ha! So instead of trust in God and face the trauma, I trusted in me and made things worse. That familiar knot in my stomach hadn't gone away; I had just piled more layers of garbage over it.
Oh, did I mention that another reason I wanted to avoid the hurt was because I also wanted to avoid responsibility for my own sin? For every blow I took in high school, I can pretty clearly remember dishing one out myself. Now, again- I bought into the movie lie that "the mean kids" in high school deserve it when everyone deserts them in the end. I bought the lie that God probably wouldn't see my hurt as valid because I took part in something that made me "deserve" what I got. I had it coming to me, so why ask God for sympathy? Better just try and stuff it down.
But God is so good in showing me where I'm wrong. He's so good in showing me that throughout the history of His people, God has been comforting them in their suffering- even when it is largely self-inflicted. This God compels me to cast off my measly attempts at self-protection when He invites me to run to Him for comfort; even a comfort I don't "deserve". In that, I'm finding the freedom to acknowledge my own sin and ask those I've hurt for forgiveness.
It has taken time for God to peel back the layers of garbage I've piled up in self-protection and melt my heart with the gospel. It has taken time for me to unclench my fists and release to Him the hurt I'd been burying. And, here's the funny thing- releasing it to God doesn't mean the hurt goes away. Sometimes it means I feel it more deeply. But that's the beauty of the gospel! It frees me up to actually feel what's happening. Because of the cross, I can acknowledge that others have sinned against me and hurt me, and that God is a God of comfort. Because of the cross, I can also acknowledge that I am guilty of inflicting the very same pain on others, and that God is a God of forgiveness- a forgiveness which is offered both to me and to those who caused me pain.
If you suffered in high school, or if you're carrying any deeply buried hurt from the past (even if it's from yesterday!), consider two things:
1) Are your strategies for self-protection working, or are they only causing you more pain?
2) Would you like the freedom of being forgiven and forgiving, rather than hiding the shame?
Don't be afraid to let yourself feel pain. Trust in the God who knows pain well and offers comfort, no matter whose "fault" it is. Run to Him.