Some people teach us how to be, others teach us how not to be. It wasn’t until year 12 that I finally stood up to *Kristen. High school began in year 8 (it starts in year 7 nowadays) there was no middle school or easing out of primary school with a gentle transition toward the next phase. It felt as if I’d been dropped from a great height into a muddy pool swirling with swear words, a bajillion new classes and the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke, amongst 789 other kids of whom I only knew 3.
To describe my first week of year 8 as awkward would be a huge understatement. In the sticky summer of 1995, I fumbled through class after class wishing; a) I were invisible or b) I could make a friend for life immediately, that would never leave my side, EVER! On Tuesday when I turned up late and to the wrong class, I took my seat at the back. The teacher looked at me puzzled and let me know that my name wasn’t on the class roll, “Let me see your time table,” she said. Ugh! The cursed rotating timetable of confusion had caused my undoing! Embarrassment swept over my body as I gathered my things and scurried up the hill to the home economics class I was actually meant to be in. As I slid open the glass door there was Kristen, her hair a golden halo of curls, an abundance of naturally long black eyelashes, and a tan that seemed to glow all year round. She giggled and nudged her friend *Mary-Anne as I slid into my seat wishing for option A with all my strength. Invisibility, NOW! Ok, NOW. Aaand NOW!
It seemed from that moment forward Kristen, with the occasional help of her just as beautiful side-kick Mary-Anne, seemed to take every opportunity to pick on me with a nasty enthusiasm. What a challenge it was, trying to hold my head high, to make good grades and choices while enduring that treatment. Each day I’d pray for help to get through the difficulties of school life. I know that my prayers were answered time after time in small ways. The difficulty wasn’t removed but I made me way through it all.
In year 12, during a marine studies class, Kristen and Mary-Anne were both absent. Our teacher had always been pleasantly casual and that day had come to sit at a table with a small group of us as we worked on a project. Miss D. started asked me about Kristen, I guess she’d noticed the dynamic between us. I confided that I was glad she and her friend were away that day, it felt like I could breathe. Miss D. spoke to me with such positivity and warmth like she never had before, with a few sentences she helped me see that I had worth inside and out. I felt that Heavenly Father had guided Miss D. that day in the words she spoke. It was as though the spell cast back in the home economics class in year 8 had been broken, years of feeling small seemed less important. I had worth, I already knew I did but to have it pointed out in such a way changed me.
Not long after a friend and I were waiting to go into our business class when Kristen spoke. “Um so Holly, I heard you go to church AND you get dressed up for it and put on make up too! What a loser!” I was surprisingly excited when I heard her say this. She could pick on anything else but disrespect me for going to church and making an effort. Well now. I was prepared for this.
“You’re right I do!” I replied with a genuine smile. She seemed disappointed with my response. “I go there with my family each week, sing hymns, learn about the Saviour and I enjoy it. You should come one day.”
She stood with her mouth open and a wrinkled expression. Eventually she recovered enough to say, “Um, as if. I have better things to do with my time.”
Casting my mind back I still remember the powerful feeling that surged through my veins telling me I was standing strong in my righteous choices, I didn’t need to be ashamed of the gospel and worshipping the Saviour. I had increased in spiritual confidence over the years of prayers, attending church and seminary and trying to be my best. It may have been that either from that day forward Kristen picked on me less or maybe I just didn’t notice it as much.
It was hard to be the only LDS girl in my high school, to feel alone in so many ways but it’s also what made me, me. “Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.” It is through challenges that we can all learn where our true source of happiness comes from. It’s from knowing we are precious daughters of Heavenly Parents, that we have individual worth and the strength to endure hardships if we ask for his help. We don’t need to ask “Why me?!” but can take comfort from the words of Elder Jörn Klebingat “When these trials come, the adversary’s minions begin broadcasting that you did something wrong, that this is a punishment, a sign that Heavenly Father does not love you. Ignore that! Instead, try to force a smile, gaze heavenward, and say, “I understand, Lord. I know what this is. A time to prove myself, isn’t it?” Then partner with Him to endure well to the end.” It took time for me to develop and become who I am. Sometimes I triumphed; sometimes I fell short and made mistakes. Ultimately, I felt able to bear the burden that had been placed upon me with God’s help. I feel blessed to have my testimony. Although it was small in the beginning, it grew because I kept trying, trusting and believing.
So to you I say, endure beautiful girl. It may not be a perfect endurance but stud it with great effort, partner with God and offer your heart-felt prayers and expect blessings to flow because of your great efforts. Be the best most wonderful, glorious young woman you can possibly be and that will be enough.
When have you have felt yourself grow in spiritual confidence?
*Names have been changed to protect identity