09 June 2010

Twenty Years Ago

I did something today I haven't done in years. Years.

The unpacking took an unexpected detour when I came across my high school yearbook. I sat down on the floor, and dared to crack open the pages.  I was surprised at what greeted me.  Not simply memories and faces I haven't thought of ages, but the feelings...

(And the hair!  Let's just say there was big hair, big bangs and lots of hair spray!)

It was very bittersweet.  I was not a popular kid in high school, and even the friends I had knew that I was "different" than them.  I was "religious."  They weren't.  I was a goody-two-shoes.  They tolerated me, but never really understood.  I simply wanted friends.  I wanted some company on the bumpy road of adolescence.  I had a few good friends, and one "first love" whom I still remember fondly.  Other than that, high school was rough.

I wouldn't have done it any other way, but I have to be honest about how hard it was to be a "good" girl and remain true to my faith and the virtues my parents instilled in me.  There were many, many times I cried my heart out, and yelled at God, thinking He was ruining my fun, making me a dork and an outcast.  Loneliness was a heavy load in my backpack at times.  Belonging is so important at that age, and I just wanted to know what it felt like to belong, if only for a few minutes.

Of course, maturity and perspective have taught me how blessed I was back then, and all that I was spared precisely because of my faith and my decision not to abandon God.  Now, sitting on my floor with my own children down the hall, those teenage trials seem like another lifetime of a different person.  It is clear the grace of God was with me, protecting me, and keeping me despite my resistance at times!  Thank you, Jesus, for strengthening me to choose You over "belonging."  I can see now that the belonging I sought was an illusion because the ones I wanted to belong to had nothing to offer me but heartache, empty promises and fickle loyalty.

Yet, as I flipped through those old pages, that loneliness pricked my heart again, and I thought how glad I am that high school is over and I'd never go through that again for all the money in the world.

It is easier now as an adult to go against the crowd, yet I know there are still moments when it seems like it might be fun to do what everyone else is doing in order not to feel so different and set apart.  Thankfully, those moments are fleeting and I can now recognize it for what it is, just run-of-the-mill human nature and weakness.  Even more thankfully, I also feel the call to be set apart for holiness and I find that call more compelling now than the lure of belonging to the crowd.  How sweet it is to be more drawn to Him than to the world.

The things is, I'm not sure I would know that now if I hadn't suffered through the loneliness.  That's how it works.

I hope I am wiser than I was twenty years ago, and now the real challenge is to help my daughters navigate their own growing-up years and make it safely to adulthood.  Now that scares the bejeebers out of me!!  It's a different world than where I came from!  (And I feel old!)

Yet He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The yearning to belong never changes and we all feel it.  We must simply know to whom we belong and rest our longing hearts in Him.
 Oh Jesus, may my sweet girls always know that they belong to You -  body, mind and soul.  When they feel the loneliness of being set apart, draw them closer to You and increase their hunger for only You.  You are the one true Friend to us all.


Sarah Oldham said...

The only time I get my old annuals out is to show someone that Yes, I went to school with Chris Katan (the comedienne that used to be on Saturday Night Live and did a few movies with Will Farrel). He graduated with my brother's class, a year after me, in 1989. Sometimes I've pulled it out to remember a face to a name when someone mentions the past . . . but pretty much, I've boxed those babies up and could care less for many reasons. Painful memories? Yes. Embarrassing moments? Yes. The list is long and I'm just grateful to have survived it. Now I have my son (a Jr. this coming year) and my daughter (a Freshman) in high school. My youngest is going to be home w/ me and Seton for the next two years (he wanted this again - so sweet)! It is really weird and I feel old, too!

GrandmaK said...

Perhaps that is the reason my yearbooks were ruined in a flood. They're really not missed and since I went to such a large high school (430 in my class) the few friends I had still stay in contact. God, in his providence, takes us on these journeys so we are able to witness the profound role he plays/played in our iives. Thanks be to God! Cathy

Alex said...

I graduated from high school a year ago and just finished up my first year at college... All I can say is college is infinitely worse than high school. I dread going back there. And it isn't that people just put God on the shelf, it's that they attack him, demonize him, and down right HATE him. Universities are an atheistic mess in this world. And I don't just go to some state school, my university is somewhat prestigious. It makes no difference, they are all as morally bankrupt. I can't wait until I get out of this God forsaken place. I work very hard in school, and I love academics. That's why I chose the school that I go to. But the modern college scene is a complete insult to academia.

Anonymous said...

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it." Matt. 16:24,25.

I'll bet alot of people today wish had the faith and strength Jennifer did in HS.


MelissaV said...

Jennifer, I think we are kindred spirits. I finished high school 20 years ago too. I have daughters and I have the same fears as you do about their futures in this world. I, too, sometimes feel the loneliness of being set apart (especially as I am the only Catholic homeschooling mother that I know in my city and I don't live in my own country). My greatest consolation is Jesus' words, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first". You write so beautifully. I follow your blog and your articles on Catholic Online and I feel every word of them in my own heart. I feel that I have a friend in you. Thank you so much.


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