High school wasn’t the best of times for me. I’m sure some of you can agree with that statement. To be honest, I use to avoid even thinking about it. Sure, there were some precious memories from the years, but the hard parts always seemed to outweigh all the rest. I use to have horrible flashbacks to standing in the middle of the cafeteria in the 10th grade and glancing over to some girls pointing at me whispering, “that’s her.” I remember noticing it appeared they felt bad when it was obvious I had heard them. I remember standing there while my heart just sunk.
I moved back to the same place I began high school. I was away for almost two years as my family had moved to another state, but my dad’s job moved us right back. The difference was I looked a lot different to people when I returned. I was now a very thin and fragile girl who had been battling some mental illnesses while away, and they returned with me. That’s when high school got hard, real hard. I began to see how mean girls could be to each other, I didn’t know what real friendship looked like or even meant, and all I wanted was someone to talk to, to cry with and to be there with me. Flash forward a couple years to college and I had begun a relationship with Jesus Christ. I was healthy and life began to make sense. I was invited to become part of this ministry called Young Life my freshman year of college. What happens in this ministry is if you decide to become a leader, you get placed at a school where you will enter the lives of students. In my case, I was immediately placed at a high school. And not just any high school, but the same high school I stood in the middle of the cafeteria of, heartbroken. I had been hearing over and over again, “God has a plan” and “He can use you anywhere” and “You can do anything with Him” and things of that nature. But walking those same halls again? The ones where my past that I didn’t want to remember remained? It scared me, to say the least.
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory” (Isaiah 61:3). I read something from Les Feldick Bible studies that said the following along with that verse from Isaiah, “The scripture says, ‘God will give you beauty for ashes.’ Ashes represent our broken dreams, our failures, our disappointments and our hurts. Here’s the key: you have to let go of the ashes before you can receive the beauty. If you won’t let go of the old, you can’t receive the new.”
Before entering the doors of my old high school, I had to make the choice to let go of the old. I had to let go of all the pain I associated with that place. And let me tell you, it was not easy. But what I can also tell you it that it was worth it. What’s funny is God knew this plan He had for me while I walked those halls hopeless years ago. He knew the beauty He was going to give me in the years to come (big dreams, purpose, real friendships, contentment, joy… life… the list goes on). If only I could go back and tell my high school self all of this. And if only I could go back and tell my high school self that not only will my eyes be opened to how much the God of the Universe loves me and is writing my story, but also that one day I will get to come back to the same exact place that I was at my darkest moments and tell high school students how much He loves each one of them. That they too can trade their ashes in for beauty. And I would get to say all of this to them not just because I read it or heard it somewhere, but because I experienced it in their very place. I never thought I’d be sitting here six years later telling you that doing ministry at the high school I attended was the best thing (besides choosing Jesus himself) I have ever gotten to do. I may not be able to go back and tell my old self all of these things, but going alongside of Jesus to tell high school girls these truths is the greatest of gifts. There is nothing more rewarding than going and being that friend I needed in those years. It has been such a picture of God’s grace and redemption. That He truly can bring light out of any dark situation. That if we choose Him, He will not let anything go to waste. He will use it ALL for His glory.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). The Lord is always with us, even when we are blinded to that fact. If the Lord is inviting you into something that seems scary, chances are it only appears that way because it is much bigger than yourself. His mission is bigger than anything we could possibly dream up with our human minds. So I encourage you my dear friends, to accept the invitation to whatever He is calling you into. God doesn’t need us to do it, but He chooses to invite us. And He will show us things we never thought possible along the way. How truly incredible.
words by Megan Sauers and photo by Hailey Pierce