So if this story were the blockbuster movie I wish it were, it would start out a rough-around-the-edges Beatrix Kiddo character, growing up having to fend for herself and never even knowing what love felt like. Then it’d slowly turn into a Blind Side kinda deal where it’d get all sappy and in the end everyone’s perfect and the world is a happy place and blah blah blah. Sadly, this is my story so it’s not nearly as exciting. At the start you've got this toe-head kid who could get free ice cream from McDonald’s at an age that everyone is cute. In the middle you got the bookworm in the corner that people love to hate. In the end, you've got that plus Jesus. Sensational, I know.
Up until about four years ago this rat’s nest of a person found herself stuck in a purgatory of if-ish-ness. Too goody-two-shoes to be part of the “real world” but too secular to be a proper Christian, too man-ish to be a girly girly but to girly to be a tom boy. Forever in-between, never so much either or, not enough of this but too much of that. Oh, and just to add that classic touch, I read comics about as much as I inhaled. I gotta tell ya, that’s not the greatest place in the world to be.
Friends aren't the easiest thing to find when you’re an outlier. And when you constantly have to sit in time out during recess for not doing your homework, it only gets harder. Add to the fact that I lived light years away from everyone I knew so playdates were out of the question. And my fellow shoulder-shruggers-of-the-world were yet to be seen. Times were tough for little pink tails Nikki.
By the age of ten, with a grand total of zero compadres, I got desperate. I’d let some not-so-nice people get close to me and I’d let them really beat the crap out of me. (Never physically, straight up mental warfare.) I had people telling me to kill myself, literally walking away from me when I walked up to them, spreading rumors and constantly making a joke out of me. Thanks to these so called “friends” I obtained a reputation among my peers, one that didn’t do me many favors. Soon enough everyone was in on the joke. Didn't matter if it came from these people came from church or school, didn't matter how old they were, after a while it didn't’t even matter if they knew me. I've had an entire bus of kids yell at me before just for sitting down.
Eighth grade was when I hit my proverbial breaking point. My social status at that point, well, it’d be nice if I could say it was nonexistent. But trouble was brewing at home as well. My dad works in Real Estate so if you know anything about politics you could guess that my family had something to shoulder when the recession hit. But little did I know that we were heading into the eye of the storm. Loved kept dropping like flies. First it was my cousin, then my great grandpa, then my grandma, my dog, my grandpa, they just kept coming. That, along with some other problems that I would tell if they were mine to tell, and I felt myself losing it. See, I made the rookie mistake of thinking that it was my job to keep a strong front and hold the family together, which in dumb-kid terms translated to always keeping a smile on my face and never telling anyone that I was drowning. Part of me was hoping that someone would be able to see it.
God was the last thing on my mind. I’d grown in a Christian household, sure, but the dangerous thing with that is that when you grow up with Christ he tends to become a bedtime story that you out grow. It wasn’t that I hated God. I was just indifferent. I knew that he was there at some point but then just forgot. So when I say that Jesus called, I mean he called. I imagine it was something like he was waving his hand in front of my face, snapping his fingers, going you-who! Remember me? You’re best friend waiting to happen? I’m right here! I’m right here! SERIOUSLY! I’M RIGHT HERE! Look, free candy! Shiny thing! Pony! Books! Puppies! More puppies! ALL OF THE PUPPIES! COME ON! Well, at least I wish it was like that. That’d mean I’d have Jesus and a lot of puppies. And baby, if that were true then I wouldn’t even need the rapture because I’d already be in heaven. But anyway, it started with some stupid argument I had with my sister. My mom was out of town for my cousin’s funeral and everyone was shouldering a cloud of gloom. Spirits were low and tensions were high. Now me and my sister, we barely coexisted on the best of days, but that day we were both looking for somewhere to let out all our frustration. So it was inevitable that we were going end up screaming at each other by the end of the day. However, my dad was none too pleased that it was because neither of us wanted to do the dishes. Especially since he was a ticking time bomb himself.
He came, he tried to break it up, and to end it all he said the sentence that could have ended my life.
“I can’t believe you can be so selfish when the family is in so much pain.”
That’s it. Not the rest of the family, not your family, just the family. Like I wasn’t a part of it, like I wasn’t in pain too.
When he dropped that, I just stood there for a moment. I froze. I waited to see if maybe my sister would also be exiled, maybe then I could say it was him and not me. Nothing. So, with that verdict, I went my way. Not a word spoken to any of them. Next thing I know I was in my room, lying on my bed, looking up at the ceiling and trying desperately to mentally erase everything that made up me. I was really sick and tired of being whatever the heck it was that I was. No good could come of it, I decided. Best to just burn everything I was to the ground and start again, like restoring an iPod. A system reboot. (Not exactly sure how I thought I was going to do this, looking back, but hey. I’m sure I would have figured something out.) I took apart everything I enjoyed, everything I hated, everything that made up who I was, and made it up in my mind that these things were “bad” and therefore had to go. The thought of Jesus was the very last thing I had before I was empty. And was calling. He had been, for fourteen years. And that call was the only thing part of me that I had left. There, with that very last part of me that just so happened to be my faith, I whispered. I whispered with the smallest voice I had. I whispered that question that people have been trying to figure out for centuries. One small whisper to save me. God, are you there?
Without even thinking about it I picked up a devotional that I had gotten for Christmas that year and opened it to a completely random page. I just opened the book. I’d never opened this book before this day either. And yet, lo and behold there it was. How to Deal With Death.
That’s the day my life began.
After that encounter I was hooked. I started praying, praying for just about everything. And God always answered. Not always in the way I imagined or wanted, but he always did. And, strangely enough, he gave me superpower.
That’s right. I can fly. Jesus gave me to the power of flight.
God granted me the almighty power of turning former bullies into best friends. That’s right, the very same people that used to hate me now can’t get enough. By the end of the year I finally fell into a crowd both at school and church that treated me like whatever the opposite of mud is. He gave me the strength to really care for my family and be cared for in return as we faced some not-so-great times. And over the years he led me to the inner circles of some of the most amazing people that walk the earth today. They have such mastery over grace and mercy that I could only aspire to be them someday. And these people, who I look up to and cherish, seem to think there’s something great about me. (I have pulled off the grand deception of making them think that I am, quote on quote, “the bomb dot com”.)
But before you get the idea that now my life is all rainbow-defecating unicorns and show-tune singing blue jays, I should just go ahead and tell you that my fight is still far from over. I’m still trying to figure out how to like myself, and I’m still struggling to figure out what “truly belonging” really means. I’m still I derp with people problems and that’ll never change. The only difference between me then and me now is that now I’m not so alone. By the way, I really wanna say something clever at the end of this so here it goes.
The world doesn’t need a reason to hate you. Luckily enough, God doesn’t need a reason to love you. And neither do I.