Have you ever sat back and thought about love without conditions; the type of love that is unconditional? We all love to use the phrases, “I’ll pray for you” or “I’m praying for you”, but to what extent do we really pray? To what extent do we really love? At this point you are probably sitting there with arms crossed wondering what I am getting at.
In life we have tendency to look at the present and go “wow”. You look at someone’s present circumstances and you try to determine the steps that it took for that person to get where they are. We judge the beginning based on what we see in the present. What if you could see the past and it would give a clearer depiction of the present?
My name is Joey and I am a bi-vocational associate/youth pastor. In your mind, you are already trying to figure out the events that brought me to where I am today. You might weigh the educational and experience and completely miss the truth. I grew up going to an inner-city public-school system and my prayer everyday was for God to use me… no matter what. If you saw me in elementary school you would notice that in every class picture I would be standing next to the teacher because I was the shortest kid in the class. I was the one that would sit at his desk with his hands folded. I remember walking down the halls, getting slammed into the lockers, spit on, stuffed in a trash can, laughed at, called ugly, stupid and worthless. If you looked into my elementary school records you will read about a student who was falling way behind, attended summer school, supposed to be held back a grade, couldn’t comprehend anything he was reading or writing, needed a speech and reading therapist, needed a math tutor, and had those big glasses on top of it all. No matter what grade level in school, you will see a student that was made fun of, yet never gave up and always persevered. Every year there were new obstacles and people that made life difficult, but what I did with that made all of the difference. Each problem or circumstance may have been different, but my response would always be the same.
I could tell you countless stories about those who tried to hurt me, made fun of me, mocked me for my faith and yet this passage will come to mind:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
The reality is: Hurt People, Hurt People. Each of those people that make life difficult have a story and, so do you? I can still remember running to my room after school, tears pouring down my face because of something someone said or did. I wish I could show you the inside of that tear stained room because you didn’t and wouldn’t see a bunch of hate letters. In my room there was a bunk bed and every inch of those boards were covered by colored paper with a passage of scripture on it. If you would look at the walls you would see wall to wall to wall to wall of names of every person that I was praying for. Every person that was in my life, in my class, that I came in contact with their name was on that wall. It didn’t matter if you were nice or rude to me, I prayed for you. If you opened my school locker, you would see scripture on post it notes because I was going to go to war on your behalf. I could tell you story after story about how those that bullied me growing up now come to me years later asking for forgiveness or asking my advice. They have a story about the hurt and pain that they are going through and you may be their easiest target. In no way am I saying that their lashing out is right… it’s not.
I could tell you about each and every person that laughed at me, shoved me, and called me names, but I can also tell you of a person that dropped to his knees and watched God transform their lives.
A few years back, my family and I moved back to my hometown. My daughter’s go to the same school district that I grew up going to. Could it be that God heard prayers from when I was a student and is continuing to answer those prayers in the lives of current students including the ones that I was originally praying for? My girls sit in the same classrooms and walk the same halls that I prayed for my bullies in. Sometimes God likes to add cherries on top: My girls are actually friends and classmates with the kids of classmates that I had (their names were on my wall). Every year my girls end up getting the “kind bulldog award”
Here are some tips and questions that you need to ask:
Why is that friend or person being mean? What is their family life like? Who hurt that person?
How can I overcome bullying in school? How can God change this for His Glory?
If you are going through a struggle or know someone that is:
If you see something, say something. Talk to your teacher, your counselor, your pastor, your parents.