-written by Matt Clotfelter
Nearly 30 years later, I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember it was quite warm and it hadn’t rained for days. I remember the taste of the hot peppers and the feeling of the branches against my skin. It was the first time I was ever physically bullied.
As a middle schooler, I was quite socially awkward. I was still trying to learn how to mesh with my peers. It had been a difficult few months. It was the end of the school day, and my friends were playing a game I had no desire to be involved in, seeing who could eat the most hot peppers. When they realized I was not going to participate willingly, they decided to ensure I did. Before I knew what was happening, I was being held down and force-fed hot peppers. This was not my idea of a good time.
Amidst their laughing, I was able to push myself away and make a dash for my bike. I dove through a bush to reach it quickly. My body felt on fire, and it wasn’t just the peppers. I felt betrayed by my friends and unwanted by my peers.
Many of you may have experienced moments with the same root feelings–betrayed or degraded by those who are closest to you. It can give you a sense of worthlessness, leaving you feeling empty and lonely. Those feelings might even lead you to believe your future hope is gone.
I want you to know you… we are not alone.
In Psalm 139, David reminds us God cares for even the most minute details about us. He says in verse 13, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” I tried knitting once. Notice I said once. I was no good at it. It takes too much patience, too much attention to detail.
God is so patient. He delights in the details! And God’s detail work is not done yet. In Philippians 1, Paul tells us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Thank you, Lord, that You are not done with me yet! This means He is not only changing me, but He will continue to love and forgive me, even when I fail Him. David also tells us in Psalm 34 God is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
The next day at school, it was as if nothing had happened. A day or two later, I knew I had to deal with the problem. I approached my friends and told them I was not okay with what they did. Their reaction was surprise. They didn’t realize I had been bothered by their actions. They were heartbroken. They were sorrowful for hurting my feelings, fearing it damaged our friendship. My perspective changed, just as theirs did. We all saw the incident as something which shouldn’t have happened, but each of us walked away friends.
Our lives were different because of it. We were closer than before and we went through our middle and high school years, most of us still together. But it might not have been this way had not talked about it.
In many cases, talking about what has happened can change our story, even the lives of those around us. Your story doesn’t have to be one of pain and defeat. Our story was designed from the beginning of time to be one of victory in Jesus!
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV
Matt Clotfelter is married to Amie and they have 2 children, Tyler and Marcus. Matt serves as a deacon as well as volunteers in the SoHills nursery, preschool ministry, and preteen ministry.