“You gotta be careful with this one… she’s extra sensitive. Maybe just shelter her a little more until she gets used to things. Don’t pass her around too much.” My pediatrician gave my mom the above advice when I was an infant. My emotions were fragile even from the get go. I recall how upset I would get when my big brothers would play fight when I was very young. I couldn’t differentiate between play and real fighting and I would cry when they would wrestle or “wrassle” as my dad would call it. I always thought someone was getting hurt and I would just bawl and move in to break up the “fight”. When people were sad it made me sad. I felt “all the feels” of those around me. I had a heightened perception of even other people’s emotions. At around age 5 or so, I remember my mom telling me, “Spring… you have such a big tender heart and that’s how God made you. You are such a loving, good girl.” And I believed her.
As an adult, I now suspect that I had an undiagnosed learning disability as a child. An obstacle that could have easily been corrected by teaching me the way I learn, which was different from the masses. But no one knew and that made my days pretty challenging. School had always been a struggle for me. I remember being in first grade having issues learning subtraction. My teacher used my paper as an example in class, to yell at the kids to pay better attention. I had gotten almost all the problems wrong. I did pay attention, but I didn’t understand the concept. Later my little friend said, “I wonder whose paper that was that got all those answers wrong?!” I was too embarrassed to tell her it was mine.
I eventually had to get taken out of class for math help, in third or fourth grade with Sister Dorothy who was so frustrated with me that I didn’t “get” something that was so easy! Fractions were my nemesis! Eventually I stopped admitting I needed help. I lied and said I understood things when I didn’t. I didn’t want to be different or stand out as the “dumb kid”. I pretty much took this approach throughout most of my school years even though my report card stated I needed help badly. I also earned the reputation that I was “lazy and unmotivated”, when in truth I was completely overwhelmed and in “shut down” mode not knowing how to say: “I have no idea what the heck you’re explaining to me” for fear of disappointing my teachers or my parents. Instead the tears would just well up when someone would try to go over something that was hard for me for me to grasp.
When I got into middle school that’s when I realized that a sensitive big heart may be my downfall. It didn’t do any good to be involuntarily transparent because others could see how much things bothered me. I could never stick up for myself because I was thick with emotion. I was bullied in 6th grade which set the tone for how I viewed myself down the road. My mom of 7 kids, who was assumed to be a great authoritarian in our big family, was hired by our school principal as the disciplinary lunch lady for about 2 years or so. I became the target of mockery and name calling and was pretty much the laughing-stock of my grade. I soon learned I was a geek, I was a nerd, I was stupid, I had an ugly pizza face, and the worst was, “You can’t even sing” told to me by one of the girls in the locker room after PE. I had been writing songs since I was 10 and my dream was to be a singer in a pop band. Oh the 80’s… I believed all of those kids and what they said to me because when you’re young, if enough people say it, it must be true, right? I don’t even remember how often the name calling happened but instead of the words bouncing off of me, it soaked in deep and made a home in my self-esteem.
So there was that. Later on that year I was taken out of volleyball due to my bad grades. This crushed me because everyone knew that I was benched at games because of academic probation. I really wasn’t good at volleyball anyways. When I was able to play, it was unlikely that my serve would even go over the net, but if it did, my dad would clap, whistle and yell loudly, “That’s m’girl- woohoo!!” Then we’d watch the ball go out-of-bounds. Either way, he’d tell me how awesome I was afterwards, and how proud he was of me, and I’d think “yeah, yeah…”
I had 2 best friends in 6th grade and if they were sick on the same day of school, boy was my day NOT awesome. No true friends to sit with at lunch was the worst, or having to play at recess with people who really didn’t like you. I got good at following the crowd just to laugh with and be included for 5 minutes and not be the “goody, goody” lunch lady’s kid.
By 8th grade my life was settling back to normal. My mom had quit her job at my school and the older kids in the grade above me had moved on to high school and pretty much all of the bullying stopped. I realized that year I was boy crazy. I got my braces off and I was starting to move out of my awkward phase. I decided I liked boys who didn’t take any crap from people, who appeared tough and didn’t care what people thought of them. I called them “Bad Boys”. My mom about had a heart attack when she found a note of mine I had saved, explaining to my friend my choice of boys. My poor mom.
I am friends with many people who will read this blog. My kids know some of my struggles growing up in an age appropriate way. I guarantee they have ideas of why I’m so strict. I’m very protective and for good reason. I’m pretty sure I have them convinced I can read their minds, so don’t even try anything because I will know! Ha. I told my older children that I parent the way I do, because of all the mistakes I made when I was their age. I tell them, “When you don’t know how much God loves you, people make choices based on how much they think they’re worth. Because when you know you’re a precious child of God, you LIVE like it.” That day will come when I share everything with my kids. But not now. Even though I have raised them to be compassionate, understanding kids, this could go backwards for me during their formative years. I share with them plenty of stories though. They just don’t know where they came from. Like myself, I knew a lot of lost kids growing up.
A shift occurred in me the end of 8th grade. I started up some unhealthy behaviors at age 14, you know, to toughen myself up, but I did hold onto a snippet of the truth that I was still “good”. I tried to mentor to troubled girls freshman year, telling them they “were good because Jesus doesn’t make junk” (a favorite saying of my dad). Eventually I got lost in the shuffle and common belief systems of all the other kids who didn’t know their worth. You know, the kids trying to be tough and not care, like me. By Sophomore year, I was pretty much lost. I was so immersed in my escalating rebellion that one day, my loyal friend from middle school came up to me in the hall between classes and said: “Spring, I see that you are going down the wrong path and becoming a person that you’re not. I want you to know I am praying for you. Jesus loves you.” Some people may have scoffed or taken that the wrong way. Or laughed their butts off. But I knew this lifelong friend Missy who was my BFF in 6th and grade I knew her heart. She had a Christ light so bright. I took note of what she said, telling her I would be okay, but I was already running full force in the wrong direction.
That same year in my Catholic high school, I was scolded in confession for telling the priest my sins. In hindsight, I thought I’d been scolded, but it was probably something a parent would say to their child like: “You’re just 15!! Why would you do that??” I was so put off and mortified by his comment. Some other students (my like-minded friends) got the same response from the same priest. We boycotted confession at school from that point on. One time, as my friends and I were boycotting the next class confession a month later, the superintendent of our school, also the head Priest of the school, came over to me and my friend and explained his disappointment for us not attending confession. We didn’t want to tell him why we didn’t want to go anymore for fear of chastisement, so we just stood there like statues. He told us the bible verse: Saying that (this is how God feels about us.) Rev 3: 16 “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!” I remember my friend crying after that talk with him. What I took away from that conversation was.. “You are vomit and God doesn’t want you.” It confirmed my deepest fears. I didn’t understand the context of the verse at the time and the priest didn’t understand that were scared to go back to confession because we didn’t want to get in trouble! But a lie was planted in my heart that day. If God didn’t want me, I didn’t want him either. I hardened my heart and made future choices that reflected that closed heart. I sank into a deep depression and tried to self medicate with choices that compromised my health, choices that compromised my dignity, and choices that got me involved with all things opposite of God, hurting my soul.
I proceeded to believe the lie throughout the rest of my high school years and into college that God didn’t want me. It affected every choice I made. It made for quite the suitcase of baggage that I carried with me throughout the years. Throughout the next half of my life actually, and into my marriage.
Have you ever felt lost or believed God didn’t want someone like you?
Maybe He’s been chasing after your heart all along. Take a listen