I got knocked out once when I was in junior high school.
It was in the locker room during the four or five minutes they gave us to shower and dress again after gym class. I would have preferred not to take a shower in front of a bunch of other kids, of course, but this was back when “they” were actually allowed to compel students to do things that were…potentially embarrassing.
I remember undressing, and wrapping a towel around my midsection. I remember walking into the shower area and laying my towel over a wall within easy reach.
Then I remember waking up on my back, with a circle of kids around me like spectators at a car crash–except for the people at car wrecks aren’t usually laughing at the person laying on the ground.
All of these boys were just standing there, watching me lay naked on the wet tile floor.
I was never popular when I was a kid, and certainly was not considered “cool,” by probably anyone except the few other misfits I spent most of my time with. But it was not until that day I realized how little I was thought of by kids who rated even a little higher on the cool scale than me.
I don’t remember seeing any of my few friends in the circle that morning, but none of the kids that were there reached out to help me, or to even ask if I was OK. They literally just pointed and laughed.
I was horrified, and for a few seconds just lay there, trying to disappear into the grout.
The teacher came in shortly after that and shooed everyone away, and helped me get up. I didn’t tell him about my couple seconds of blackout, and insisted emphatically that I was OK and just wanted to go about my business and return to class, which is what I eventually ended up doing.
What I took away from that incident stayed with me for most of my life, and it’s only in thinking and writing about it now that I can see how much it affected me.
It taught me not only that I wasn’t cool, but that I probably never would be. I was also left with the feeling that I didn’t belong at my school, and maybe not anywhere. I certainly didn’t want to be there after the “shower” incident. And if it weren’t for the few people I knew there who didn’t see through me, I don’t think I would have made it.
That feeling, though…feeling like I didn’t belong there. That was a feeling I had a really difficult time shaking.
And it eventually got to the point that I felt maybe the people laughing at me were right, and I was worthy of ridicule. I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t fit in anywhere, or matter anywhere.
I was…a mistake.
I was not worthy of…anything.
I was little more than someone for people to point and laugh at.
Maybe that’s how you feel.
Probably you didn’t fall and hit your head on the floor of a junior high shower, but maybe something happened where it felt like you were the butt of a joke.
Like everyone was laughing at you.
Like you were some offal scraped from the bottom of a shoe.
Like you didn’t belong.
Like you didn’t matter.
I went the better part of my life feeling that way.
But then Jesus came along and whispered truth into my heart. It was as if I could hear Him telling me
You belong here.
You are not a joke.
You are of greatest value to me—a price above rubies.
You matter so much to me, I died for you.
I wish I could tell you that knowing Jesus makes you immune to pain, and suffering, and that only good things will happen to you for the rest of your life.
But that isn’t the truth.
The truth is that bad, crappy, and sometimes tragic things will happen, and in some cases happen often.
What Jesus offers is not always deliverance from these things.
He offers love, and friendship, and the hand of a healer where before all that existed was a feeling of aloneness so profound it hung around you like the dark blanket it actually was.
Jesus offers deliverance through pain, not from it. He offers hope when we are scorned, and mocked, and laughed at. He went through it, too. Just look at these words from Isaiah 53:
2 My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows[a] that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
Jesus offers somewhere to belong, and someone to belong to. And no matter how hated, how inconsequential, how alone we feel, he was all of those things, too.
We are not alone in our suffering.
We are not alone.
We have the assurance of a comforting hand reaching out to us across the darkness, and if we take it, we can get through anything.
We just have to take His hand.
My wife and I were listening to an old hymn the other day on Youtube, done by one of our favorite Christian bands, Third Day. I knew the song’s words, and had heard it many times, but had never given much thought to where it came from. But after I finished writing the above few paragraphs, the melody began playing in my head, and I thought to look it up online (sidebar: man, has the internet ever changed everything).
Here’s just a partial paraphrase of what I found:
In 1873, blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby was visiting a friend who was having a new pipe organ installed in her home. While waiting for the work to be finished, Crosby’s friend played her some music she’d written on a nearby piano. When the friend asked Crosby what she thought the tune said, Crosby replied
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
I think that’s the most important thing Jesus offers:
Here’s the clip we listened to: