Pulling into a space in the familiar parking lot, I turn off the engine and lean back in my seat. I don’t want to think about how many years it’s been since I’ve walked those halls. Yet looking at the brick and cement building looming before me, I feel all that painful awkwardness of being seventeen and on the outside of the popular circles. Sitting at the “outcast” table at lunch. Knowing that everyone was going to a party that I didn’t get invited to. Wanting to hide in the bathroom and never come out. High school was not the happiest time for me.
Now, years later, I’m back at my old school. But this morning I’m going to be speaking about forgiveness to the 300 high school students. And all at once I feel like that painfully shy, terribly insecure, completely uncool kid again. “They’re going to laugh at me,” I tell myself. “They’re going to think I’m stupid.” I briefly consider driving back out of the parking lot and giving the whole thing up.
I shake my head to dissolve the old memories. “Snap out of it, Michelle. You’re not in high school anymore. This isn’t about you anyway. It’s about the message God has given you for these kids. So get over it!”
Gripping the steering wheel, I slowly let out my breath. “God, you’re gonna have to help me do this. Speak through me today.”
Standing in front of the assembly of 300 students, I share about a difficult friendship and the hurt I suffered from it. The rustling and fidgeting quiet down as the students get wrapped up in the story.
“I was holding on to a list of what this person ‘owed me’,” I explain, holding up a sheet of paper. “I thought she owed me an apology. Saying she was sorry. Admitting she was wrong. Undoing the damage she caused. Changing her behavior. But when I made the decision to forgive, I was choosing to cancel that debt and let it go.” I begin ripping the paper into smaller and smaller pieces. “She owes me nothing.” I throw the pieces on the floor.
Hope and Healing
Something’s happening to me as the pieces of paper flutter to the ground. I’m finally letting go of those long-ago hurts from when I was in high school – the rejection of being left out, looked down on, and made fun of. God, I’m letting it go, I pray silently. It has no hold on me anymore. I’m a new person.
“This was a message we needed to hear today,” the principal says to the assembly as I take my seat. “The Holy Spirit has spoken to our hearts, and we’re going to take time to respond.” Though it’s already past time for chapel to end, he announces that they’ll be breaking up into small groups for discussion and application, using the steps laid out in “Processing The Issues of Your Heart.”
I’m so thankful I didn’t drive off earlier this morning when I was confronted with those doubts and insecurities from so many years ago. I’m not the same girl I was in high school. My confidence is not in myself, but in Christ. And it’s only because of what He has done in me that I can share this hope and healing with others.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” II Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)