Growing up in a small town, I attended 13 years of school with the same kids. The children who shared crayons and blocks with me in Kindergarten became the angst-ridden teens who hurled insults and food at me until senior year.
I identified with underdog characters in movies like Lucas, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a bunch of John Hughes flicks that always featured at least one kid who stood out like a dandelion in a field of tulips.
Unlike the protagonists on the silver screen, there was no day of redemption for me. No tearful apologies, no dream date to the prom, and no convicting cafeteria speech that ended with thunderous applause and a renewed spirit of unity.
Convinced there had to be something horribly wrong with me to be the target of word darts and slapstick antics, I spent most of my childhood trying to fix myself. I adopted new hair styles, stopped wearing my glasses, and lost so much weight that my size 2 jeans sat loose at my waist.
None of my self-remodeling attempts worked.
Dear Jesus, I pleaded, please make me lovable. Please take away whatever it is that makes me less than everyone else. Please make me normal, Jesus. Please.
God held me tighter, I felt Him near, but He didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted.
When I graduated high school I had just two goals:
- Get as far away from that town as possible.
- Figure out what was wrong with me.
My life improved when I attended a Christian college, but I still felt deficient and worth far less than everyone else. After college graduation, I moved to Orlando and it was in the city of sunshine and palm trees where I began to understand why God didn’t do for me what Cinderella’s godmother did for her.
During a gathering my roommate and I were hosting one night, someone started leafing through my yearbook. I briefly shared that I was the local outcast in high school.
What happened next changed my life.
My friend Eric, raised his eyebrow and incredulously asked, “You? Kids made fun of you?”
“Mmmhmmm,” I replied. Then I braced myself for his next question.
Here it comes, I thought, he’s going to ask me what was wrong with me back then.
My heart slid toward my toes when Eric started his question,because it seemed like he was going where I thought he would go . . . only he didn’t.
Instead, he shook his head and emphatically spat out the words,
“What was wrong with THEM?”
I gasped and stuttered and stood stunned.
Right there on the living room floor of my first adult home, the truth finally poked through my heart.
There wasn’t anything wrong with me.
Sure, I had gone through a gawky phase. I walked funny in elementary school. I made my share of social slips. But there was nothing fundamentally wrong with me.
I wasn’t garbage.
I wasn’t unlovable.
I wasn’t less than.
There was, however, something wrong inside the hearts of my tormentors. Whether it was fear, insecurity, anger, grief, or pride, there was something that enabled or propelled them to wound another individual.
At 15, I couldn’t understand that, so I allowed the mistakes of a few confused kids to define me.
Today, I’m 41. No one makes fun of me anymore. But there are days when I need to be reminded that I’m unconditionally loved. There are days when I examine myself and ask: What. Is. Wrong. With. You, Angela?
Those days don’t come often since I took Jesus on His word, but from time to time, they come. Insecurity is a germ. If we’re not guarded, it sneaks up and burrows its way into our hearts like virus. It festers and expands its reach until it knocks us flat.
On those days when I feel small, I need reminders that I matter.
Are you in that place today? If so, will you take a step toward healing with me?
Please stop thinking there’s something wrong with you.
Please stop thinking that you’re a mistake that needs fixing.
You may be broken. You may be wounded raw. You may be emptied of happiness and brimming with regret. But you’re not defective. There’s no invisible less-than symbol stamped on your forehead.
No matter what anyone else says or thinks. No matter what you say or think. There’s nothing wrong with you. When you really start living like you believe that, the eyes of your heart will open wide and you will be better able to give and receive more love than you ever have before.
I asked a lot of tough questions during this confusing time and God responded by showing me more of Jesus. If you’d like to delve a little deeper about who you are in Christ, please join me at my blog today.