I’m a large girl.
I always have been. I was the girl at pool parties that wore the one piece when all her friends had cute Victoria’s Secret bikinis. And that’s if I had the courage to actually go to the pool party at all. I didn’t even realize my size was an “issue” until middle school. In elementary school it’s just learn your ABCs, how to count, and enjoy recess on the playground with your friends. We were all kids, we all liked to play, we all had to learn. As I got older I began to recognize the look girls gave me right before they turned around and started whispering. I started to hear honey drip from their mouths but it didn’t seem as sweet and sincere as it used to. I was slowly being forced into a new world where everything I did, wear, or say would be connected to one word: fat.
I was always a happy-go-lucky type of girl. I was also a friendly, open, and frankly naive girl as well. The first day of middle school I was ecstatic. I had the perfect outfit picked out (cheetah print skort with a black scoop neck shirt and big dangly earrings...I said I was friendly, not that I had fashion sense.) I knew, knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would make friends because I was nice and I liked making people happy. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like my 12 year old brain hoped it would. It wasn’t like I walked into school and was pounced on, Savannah-style, by a group of popular girls like I was an antelope ready to be taken down. No, it was actually rather uneventful for a while. I did well in class, I made friends, I excelled in orchestra and was having the time of my life in theater class. It was great to be honest. However, I had begun to notice that tell-tale look the skinny, pretty, popular girls sent me. I tried to ignore it, I knew I had my group of friends, but there is something about the sneer of a fellow classmate that just makes you feel worthless. Middle school isn’t exactly a great time for everyone. I’ve decided that it’s simply a necessary, awkward, rite of passage everyone must endure before becoming a young adult.
While this began to happen, I slowly began to feel less and less like the person I was. I drew back into myself while trying to push forward a fake version of me, plastered on the front like a cheap billboard covering, with the hopes of dissuading my friends. Nothing was wrong. I was normal and the same as ever. I started to have thoughts that said “You’re not as good as them. They’re not really your friends. They take pity on you.” For a while I was in this “in-between”. These thoughts made me feel insecure, but I liked my friends. I felt different, less of myself, but I didn’t want to be that weird kid. I started to hang out with other kids, not exactly the best group. They had bad habits, they pressured me, they made me feel like I belonged, but only if I took part in what they did. I became involved in self-harm. I thought that hurting myself was the best way to fix how I felt. If I’m not worth anything, if I’m not as good as them, I’ll just punish myself for being different. It was twisted, it was sad, but at the time in my life, it seemed right.
I came across a verse the other day. It said “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. Man, if only I had stumbled upon that verse when I was truly broken. If only I had read the Bible at all when I was truly broken. I was so focused on middle-school me that I didn’t have room to let anyone or anything else in. I was selfish, self-centered, and only concerned with how I felt. My friends, my true friends, were worried about me. They tried to help, to intervene, but after being pushed away so much, they stopped helping.
I was in a dark place, even into high school. High school was filled with this urge to be accepted and this need for attention. I was broken, yearning for something, and unable to figure out what it was. Spoiler alert: It was Jesus. I was completely blind to that because I was so obsessed with how I should feel and what I wanted. My life stayed like this for a while until I “thought” I found someone who loved me. He wasn’t my first boyfriend. I had had my first boyfriend during middle school. It was a serious relationship filled with Pokemon and video games with the occasional date to Chic-fil-a. I’m surprised we didn’t get married. But in high school I met this boy who I thought was the end-all, be-all of my life. And to make it even better, he was dating my best friend at the time. I’m telling you, I was just a great person back then. Thank God Jesus changes us and refines us.
I fell head first. It was the first time I felt appreciated. He told me everything I needed to hear. All the accepting words I had missed out on. It felt as if he were healing all the brokenness I felt in middle school. If it felt this good, it had to be right. Right? Wrong. I knew what was right and wrong, but in the midst of hormones, a terrible self-worth, and home alone one night, I made terrible decisions. I gave everything to a guy who would only be a part of my life for a season.
If you couldn’t have guessed it, that boy was not the man I married. He was not, in fact, my end-all, be-all. He was temptation in human form. He was my darkness, personified by the Enemy. He was a tool to take me away from true love and the presence of Jesus.
I don’t say all this to say “pity me” or “poor teenage Sara”. No, that’s not the point at all. The point here is brokenness and the situations we sometimes find ourselves in when we want to be whole so bad, but don’t know how to get fixed. I thought that the attention of a boy, the affection of a guy, would fix all the evil stares and hateful words of girls over the years. I thought that the perfect boyfriend would prove to myself I was worth something. If this cute guy wanted me in an intimate way, I had to be worth something.
I look back on these words now and it makes me want to cry. I want to go back and wrap middle-school me in my arms and gently say “It’s okay. There is love that fixes brokenness but you won’t find it in the arms of a boy. You will find it in the arms of your Father. The almighty Father that knows your worth. That knows each hair on your head and each freckle on your skin. He created you for so much more than this and nothing will change how much you are worth in His eyes.” It hurts even more as a middle school teacher who sees students who look and act just like me all those years ago. I see the pain they wear like rags. I see the way they hope boys will look at them and affirm them. I see the way they yearn for something to fill them. I see that because I was that.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a website whose slogan stated “Your brokenness is welcome here”. Stop. Rewind. Your brokenness is welcome here. But brokenness. That’s ugly. That’s damaged goods. That’s something unwanted, unworthy, unappreciated. No way that’s what it meant to say. Does that mean God wants this broken, damaged, mistake-making, mess of a person that I am? That’s exactly what it means.
There were points in my past where I felt worthless. I hated who I was when I looked in the mirror. I am proud to say, that isn’t me anymore. I have changed immeasurably and there is only one person to praise for that, not me, but Jesus. He has taken my heart, changed it for the better, and convinced me of how special I am. I have accomplishments, I am proud of myself and how I look. I understand what I am worth. I’m still a big girl but I know I am beautiful. I don’t say that to show off, it’s simply a statement that has taken me years to believe so I will repeat it until the day I die. I am beautiful. I am beautiful first in His sight. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who also agrees to this, but even if he didn’t, I have finally found a place where I believe it for myself. God has truly shown me, through His steadfast love and acceptance, that I am a Daughter of a King and a beautiful person created in His image. Could you think of anything better to hear? I don’t think so.
By Sara Hall