It was a town with smiling faces and religion, but underneath there were sharp edges, and a certain coldness that was hard to place- you just felt slightly uncomfortable, a little bit judged, and you walked away with the vague sense of being talked about.
I know now that High School is a form of purgatory for everyone. I was painfully overly sensitive, excruciatingly self-conscious, awkward and shy, and I had this problem of liking everyone- really liking them, so that when they hurt me I'd never see it coming.
I have very few memories of High School, but I do remember the teacher who said I was ditzy, and the one who said that I was just another pretty face, the one who rolled her eyes at me so that the whole class laughed. I remember how cruel kids can be and how alone I felt, and now when I look back I think that probably most kids felt that way and I wish I hadn't been so afraid.
Nothing was safe. School wasn't safe and friends weren't safe and eventually even the things I thought were safe- churches and marriages and especially small towns- aren't safe.
It's all part of growing up, part of learning how imperfect the world is and how imperfect I am. But my story is my own, and when I look back I see God's hand in every part, can see Him so lovingly, carefully breaking me. I see now how gently He was cutting away every last part so that I could fall completely on Him. None of that pain was wasted, because it was all about Him drawing me to Himself, for my learning,
"There is none but Thee, my God, there is none but Thee."
That was the place where I began to find joy. It brought me to the end of myself, to the end of everything I could rely on apart from Christ, and in my teenage brokenness, in the early dark mornings before school with my Bible I began to learn what it means to be accepted and beloved in Christ.
I couldn't wait to flee my small town, and years later I found myself back, felt God telling me wait . .. and then I stayed and became a pastor's wife . . . and I have never been more afraid.