Duncan: Rebellion, humiliation, and Jesus
I was twenty years old and I decided it was time to make new friends and cross some lines. I wanted out of my well-established good-girl persona.
During this time, I wasn’t living what I would call a Christian life, but I know God was never far from me. From parties I shouldn’t have been at, drivers’ seats I never should have sat in, bathroom floors I could barely look up from, and a life I knew I shouldn’t have been living, I could feel His presence reminding me He was there. In some instances, it brought me peace, but other times I just wanted to push Him away and forget accountability.
My rebel status was thinly layered over my still deep love for God, and so at parties where people wanted to know if “I really believed there was a God in the sky who loved me?” I always answered yes in between shots of tequila or swigs of Captain Morgan.
Once a boy popped a Jesus-bashing song into my CD player and refused to take it out, so I pulled my dad’s big ugly truck over on Highway 61, handed him the CD, and told him to get out and walk. He just stared at me like I was some kind of freak, and we endured fifteen minutes of awkward silence for the rest of the trip (I didn’t think Jesus would make him walk all the way home).
I’ve thought about this many times and wondered if I was still a Christian while testing these murky waters. I made friends during that time whom I cherish today (many of whom have grown in the Lord themselves), and all I can tell you is that I wasn’t living a life glorifying to God, but it certainly didn’t stop Him from using it all to His glory.
God was always there for me in the most personal ways—sometimes I saw it in the moment, but more often, I see it now when looking back.
I had some rough days over the years, and especially in school.
The day I returned to my World Geography class after a trip to the bathroom and found my name scratched out on my paper with “ugly” written beside it, or when I was hailed in the middle school student newsletter as a skunk because I had yet to understand the importance of deodorant—a lesson I learned the hard way.
But none of that compares to the very worst day of my young life. After months of begging, my parents finally got me a pair of jeans with a little red triangle on the butt, and if you don’t get the importance of this, you aren’t a nineties kid (or the parent of one).
They were sparkling white Guess jeans, and I couldn’t stop turning around in the mirror to look at the perfect red triangle sewn on the right back pocket. It was a status symbol way above my own rank at school, but I was ready to own it.
The pep rally was the next day in the middle school gym, so I curled my bangs into a big fluff in the center of my forehead, coughed through a cloud of Aqua Net, put on as much blue eye shadow as my parents allowed, and tucked in a red button-down shirt to accentuate that all-important butt tag.
Several hours later—the moment I jumped up to cheer for the home team, the unthinkable happened—the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to a twelve-year-old girl happened to me in the middle of the gymnasium in front of about five hundred people.
As disgusted noises broke out behind me, a sympathetic girl nudged me and whispered, “Uh, you have something on the back of your pants.” That’s right. My first period came in those sparking white, really expensive, Guess jeans.
The humiliation pileup continued when Granny picked me up from school early and took me to the store where she shouted detailed explanations of every feminine product known to woman, which could be heard three aisles over because her hearing aid battery was out again. I later enjoyed a talk from my mom about what it meant to become a woman, and Dad and I exchanged awkward glances throughout the evening.
I just wanted to be invisible.
When I finally collapsed on my bed that night, my head was spinning, my stomach was cramping, and you couldn’t convince me that my life wasn’t over. Every time my eyes closed, I saw the horrified faces on the bleachers behind me, and I asked that favorite old question. “Why me?”
Many times this phrase has escaped my lips with a sturdy roof over my head and the smell of dinner wafting up the stairs, but I was too young to understand the significance of all that.
World hunger, the kid next door who was fighting a brain tumor, or the plight of our country—whatever it was at that time—didn’t matter to me. You couldn’t convince me I wasn’t the unluckiest girl alive. This didn’t happen on the day I decided to wear all black, or on a Saturday in front of the TV eating snacks. Nope, my womanhood showed up in row three of an eighth-grade pep rally, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I always seemed to be at the brunt of humiliation.
I felt broken, embarrassed, and unworthy. Showing my face in school the next day seemed like an impossible requirement.
Moments later, though, a little blue Bible with Jesus preaching to a crowd on the cover caught my eye. It was the one my dad always read to me at night when I was little. As I opened it, the tattered pages fell to Matthew where I saw a verse circled in red. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness”(Corinthians 12:9).
If God’s power became perfect in my inadequate, messy, and impossibly awkward self, then surely everything I endured would be worth it. Increasing God’s power in my weakness seemed bigger than anything I could do alone.
A sense of purpose washed over me there on my twin-sized bed surrounded by Freddie Prinze Jr., Mariah Carey posters, and my guinea pigs who were still angry at me from making them do a photo shoot. I wondered what God could possibly have planned for me—I even dared to dream it was something amazing.
No more than three minutes later, I dove back into chocolate and self-pity, because wisdom is fleeting when you’re 12. Nevertheless, I made it through the next day at school—and it wasn’t easy—but, then I made it through the next day, too.
Finally, one day, I crossed a small stage on the football field where the president of the Hannibal Public School Board handed me my diploma—which was actually a voucher to receive my diploma after we paid seventy-five dollars’ worth of library fees and parking tickets I’d racked up my senior year.
*This is an excerpt from Meg Duncan’s book Life on Saturn: A lifetime of grace in unexpected places available on Amazon.
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