Sludge. I’ve got a lot of it in my past, and there’s really no better word to describe it. I tried dealing with it with the help of a counselor, but I soon realized that I could spend an hour every week for the rest of my life on a stiff sofa rehashing and dwelling on these unpleasant events without ever being able to make peace with them. It took me a while, but I learned that God alone can cleanse and restore me. (He is called Wonderful Counselor after all.) I’ve confessed, repented, and put my faith in Him. I let the sludge settle where it may and am generally happy to live my life without stirring it up.
But then I was given the exciting opportunity to get a sneak peek of Kayla Aimee’s new book, In Bloom. I read, loved, and recommended her first book on the blog (click here for my review), and her second book is just as fabulous. Not only can I relate to her looks and likes as a juvenile (we had the exact same pouffy bangs and share a nostalgic love of The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books), but I can also totally connect with how she felt captured by feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. We all can, right? Kayla Aimee helps us replace these deep-seated feelings with steadfast truths of spiritual affirmation. But before I went there, I was inspired to think about the roots of my own insecurity, which was a feeling of abandonment.
In sixth grade, my best friend, Julie*, dropped me (and our other friends) for a cooler group of girls. It wasn’t loud or public, but the subtly and slowness of it hurt deeply it its own way, like a Band-Aid being pulled off millimeter by millimeter. I had a pretty good idea of where I now stood with Julie, but I wasn’t 100% sure. One evening, at a middle school social (a horrible tortuous event that I have no idea why I attended multiple times), one of my friends had an accident and cut herself. It wasn’t a major injury by any means, but my former-best-friend didn’t know that, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to find out if the friendship was really and truly completely over.
I ran right up to Julie, as she was surrounded by her shiny new chums. “Tiffany is hurt!” I exclaimed, out of breath, eyes wide. “She’s bleeding.” (My voice and mannerisms implied that Tiffany had been crushed by an Army tank. I really feel like I could have been nominated for an Oscar for my performance here, you guys.)
Julie made some comment along the lines of, “I’m sure she’ll be all right,” and turned back to her posse.
The Band-Aid was effectively ripped off. I felt raw and pink. I stung.
By eighth grade, I had a new best friend, Susan. She and I always sat together in homeroom (they were called Kids Groups), and when school wasn’t in session we were constantly on the phone with each other or at one another’s houses. I remember one particular sleepover where we stayed up almost the entire night trying to win tickets to see Alanis Morissette. We were delirious with fatigue and laughed until our sides ached. We never did win those tickets, but we didn’t really care.
One morning in Kids Group, Susan passed right by her usual chair next to me and sat on the other side of the room. I swung around in my seat, trying to make eye contact. “Hey, Susan!” I called.
She wouldn’t even look at me.
My Kids Group teacher raised her eyebrows at me, and all I could do was shrug and shake my head.
From that day forward, I was vapor to Susan. She wouldn’t sit by me, talk to me, look at me, or acknowledge my existence in any way. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could have done to offend my former friend, but I came up with nothing. We hadn’t fought. We hadn’t even had a disagreement. I couldn’t think of anything I had done that would cause her to be angry with me.
Many months later, a mutual friend told me that Susan had decided there wasn’t any point in continuing a friendship with me. At the end of the school year, I was going to the private Catholic high school, and she would be going to the public school. To her, I wasn’t a friend. I wasn’t even a person. I was a bad investment that needed to be let go.
Now, I can’t play the victim entirely here. I’m ashamed to say that I participated in some mean girl antics as well, all of which were fueled by my own insecurity. I can think of three girls that my small circle of friends “dropped” early on in high school. Speaking as an adult and a mother here, it was probably best that I did not remain friends with two of the three girls. Those girls weren’t the best influences, is all that I’m saying. But I do feel awful for my involvement in the “dropping” of a third girl. I didn’t say the crushing words to her, and I know I never would have been able to. However. I knew what was happening and didn’t stop it. Even worse, I encouraged it out of my own fear of not being accepted in high school. It’s one of my big life regrets. Years later, I apologized to that friend as an adult and she graciously offered forgiveness, but I will always, always feel a little sick to my stomach when I think of how I acted.
At this point in my life, I was convinced I was worthless. I had been bullied, sometimes even sexually harassed, by the “cool” kids who didn’t know me at all. I had been dropped by several best friends who knew me inside and out. Worst of all, I had decided that my outward devotion to God hadn’t really worked out well for me, so I couldn’t even lean upon the absolute certainty of His love. My self-esteem was nearly non-existent.
In my Junior year of high school, I had a crush on Chad, one of my brother’s friends who was three years older than me. He was good-looking, funny, and protective of me in a brotherly way… at first. He was the first boy who kissed me. And because of that kiss (plus a healthy dash of teenage girl naiveté and desperation), I thought that he was my boyfriend. He celebrated our kiss by driving out to see an old flame and sleeping with her, so he obviously didn’t see things the way I did.
After my “boyfriend’s” flagrant lack of devotion, the only way I ever should have seen him again was in the rear-view mirror, but I continued to pursue a relationship with him. So while I should have been heeding Solomon’s advice to “not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (Song 8:4), I was looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. One day, while Chad and I were, you know, not heeding Solomon’s advice, he asked if I wanted to go “all the way,” and guess what… I SAID NO! This is the only place in my narrative where I want to travel back in time and give myself a huge hug and a high-five. Heck, I’d kiss both of 17-year-old Kristin’s cheeks, grab her hands, jump up and down with her and scream, “YEAH, GIRL! YOU DID IT!” And then I’d shower her with handfuls of confetti. (OK, maybe not the confetti since I wasn’t listening to Solomon’s advice and all, but you know what I mean!) I truly believe that when a woman reflects back on her life, she will always be proud of the moments she retained her dignity. I don’t think there’s ever a time when she will think, Aww, man, I wish I had given away an irretrievable piece of my soul to that guy before the time was right.
Shortly after I said “no” to Chad, however, he decided to move… not just to another apartment on the other side of town, but to a different part of the state. I learned this information from a mutual friend because he wasn’t even going to tell me. He was just going to leave without saying goodbye. In retrospect, I should have just said, “Sayonara! Don’t let the door hit ya!” but I was still under some crazy delusion that he was my boyfriend. I hurried to the ramshackle pink house he shared with three of his buddies and confronted him. We went for a long, awkward walk during which he told me he wasn’t going to say goodbye because it was “too hard.”
The good news is that I never really loved Chad, even though I probably thought I did at the time. I mean, how can you give your heart to someone who treats you like that? I was not pining for him after he left. Unfortunately, this whole series of events with him caused me to believe a lie that Satan very much wanted me to believe: Guys won’t stick around unless you put out. Now, let’s be real. Given Chad’s track record, there is a 0% guarantee that he would have stayed if I’d have given him what he wanted, so that makes me want to celebrate 17-year-old Kristin’s “NO” victory all the more. But my self-esteem had taken another big hit, and I had come to believe The Lie.
Not too long after Chad, I started dating yet another guy who was three years my senior. (Clearly, I had a thing for older guys.) I didn’t love him. I didn’t even like him to be honest, but having a boyfriend made me feel secure. And, in regard to retaining my dignity, I’m sorry to say that this time, now fully embracing The Lie, I have no desire to travel back in time and give myself a high-five. No confetti either. Maybe just a cuff to the side of the head. He and I both made some very bad choices, and I would later learn that he had flat-out lied to me about something that was of the utmost importance.
God gives us commands, not because He wants to annoy us or prevent us from having fun, but because he loves us, wants to protect us, and wants to give us the very best life on earth that we can have. When we break His commands, he disciplines us as any loving parent would do. He disciplined both me and my new boyfriend, and our relationship crashed and burned.
Although believing The Lie did some major damage in my life, I still believed it and hadn’t really learned my lesson. You guys, a lot more damage could have been done. A lot, a lot. Thankfully, the Lord was so good to me (way beyond what I deserved) and brought me together with Dan, my current husband and the only man I ever truly loved, before I could spiral out of control and hurt myself even more.
I told Dan about all of the skeletons in my closet, and he promptly threw up. But he didn’t forsake me. To him, I am a real, treasured person. I’m not last year’s model, a bad investment, a kid-sister type to be discarded, or a cute chick to be lied to. He loves me when I’m at my best, and he loves me when I’ve got mascara dripping down my cheeks and I’m resembling one of the demons clawing at my back.
Please understand me… I am not telling you to find your self-worth in a man or any one person for that matter. That is a very bad idea, and you should never try to find a human substitute for God. What I am saying is that God used Dan to give me a glimpse of what His love is like. He used Dan to point my way back to Him. And I am indescribably grateful for that.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. (Ps. 51:12-13)
David penned these words while he was in the midst of repenting his sins against the Lord. In her Bible study David: Seeking A Heart Like His, Beth Moore uses these verses to remind me that my life is a lesson. Part of it is a lesson in what not to do. (This is one of my greatest disappointments in not having a daughter. I’ve made so many mistakes and learned so many things the hard way, my pores are oozing wisdom. I’m convinced I’d be an excellent mother to a daughter.) But the lesson is so much greater than just what not to do. It’s about Whom to trust and to show others what He has done. And the only “abandon” we can associate with Him is the reckless way in which He loves us.
*Most names have been changed.