In the 7th grade, during an argument with one of the boys in my class, I was called a name, Little Monster, that stuck throughout junior and senior high schools. Every day, I endured the teasing and taunting that comes with being seen as unattractive among teenagers. As I walked the halls of the school each day, people would run by calling me that name, sometimes screaming it in my face, and boys would tease other boys by calling me their girlfriend. It was as though those young people thought that, as a monster, I had no feelings and could not be hurt by the constant barrage of ugliness and indifference to my humanity.
So, I never dated as a teenager, never attended dances with a beau, never had anyone tote my books, because no boy would risk being seen with me or being paired with me. So, I was a loner. I loved learning, and still do, so not going to school wasn’t an option for me. I did try to win friends by writing papers for people, but that did not change my status at all. I got caught once when the English teachers got together to talk about some wonderful papers that they each had received. They quickly realized that the same person wrote them, and that that person was me. So, I got a zero on the assignment. It was the kick in the pants I needed to realize that being used by others does not make them your friends, no matter how much you wish it to be so.
I finally found a boyfriend the summer before my senior year in school, but he ended up putting me in the hospital for seven days from a beating. My hunger to belong, to be wanted, and to be seen as valuable and of worth was so great that I remained in the abusive relationship until I nearly died. When you are seen as ugly by others, and you find yourself thinking that you are the ugliest girl in the world, you can do one of two thing: you can agree that you are ugly and of no value and worth OR you can seek to find someone who sees your beauty, value, and worth. I chose the latter option.
It was a journey for peace, and it was not easy or quick, because you don’t undo years of emotional and mental abuse in a few days. It took time and the eventual acceptance that God loved me just as I was, and that because He only made one of me, then I must be rare and valuable. I tell my husband that he is the luckiest man in the world. For John 3:16 tells me that God loved the world (including me!) so much that he gave his only Son to die for us (including me!), so that whosoever would believe on the Son would have eternal life, (including me!).
But, it was being called to minister to others through teaching and preaching that truly helped me become the “jewel” I am today. As a professor, my ministry is to ensure that my students know that they are all valuable and of worth. My classroom is a safe space to speak of hurts and opinions without teasing and harassment. I write words that inspire, encourage, and edify my students on their papers, letting them know that they are loved, because I wish someone had done that for me.
For those students who tell me that they are the least in their families or don’t see themselves as smart, beautiful, or anything special, I tell them that they are priceless. You see, I, too, know what it feels like to be a “foreigner” among your own people, and Deuteronomy 10:19 states, “So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” My Egypt was the place where I slaved to be accepted by people who could not or would not acknowledge my humanity. I try to keep my students from visiting that place.
In Mark 5 is the story of a man demon-possessed, living apart from other people, seen as a monster who could not be subdued. Jesus came along and healed him, sending the demons from him and into swine. When the man was sane again, he wanted to go with Jesus. But in verse 19, Jesus told him, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” He went from being seen as a monster to being a minister spreading the word of God. That, too, is my ministry, to tell others of everything that God and His Son, Jesus, have done for me and of the mercy that God has shown me, particularly His saving me from violent men and helping me see myself as valuable and of worth.
So, the pain of being a monster as a teenager has morphed into being a minister who tries everyday to see people through God’s eyes, where everyone is considered so valuable that God paid the ransom for the forgiveness of our sins with the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Pain is not comfortable, and as a teenage girl, being called ugly every day of your school life was devastating to how I saw myself. But, God has healed the wounds to my spirit, and today I use the memory of that pain to bring glory to God, through helping others see their value and worth in His eyes in my sermons and this blog. So be encouraged to know that the past can be useful, even the pain that seems unendurable, for it can transform us into the beautiful people that we always were. God bless you!
Dear Father, Abba,
I did not think I could get through writing this blog, but You knew that I would be okay. It is somewhat therapeutic to remember the journey for peace, and to acknowledge how far I have come through faith in You and in Your love for me. Thank you for seeing me as valuable enough to send all the people that you have brought in my life to help me know my worth. I am in awe of how much you love us all! To You be glory, honor, and dominion in all things. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.