I stood outside the multi-purpose room at my school in a long line of girls, waiting for my name to be called, praying quietly for calm nerves and that my vocal chords wouldn’t fail me.
The door opened and it was my turn. I walked slowly towards the piano, wiping sweaty hands on my baggy jeans and eying the two girls who had the coveted positions of our school’s Chapel worship leaders. They were two years older, and just the fact that I was in the same room with tenth graders who were focused solely on me was a huge deal, not to mention the fact that I had to sing for them.
I reached the piano and they smiled and explained how it would work. I would sing lead for one song and then harmony for one. I took a deep breath. I can do this. I can do this in my sleep. My sweaty palm left condensation on the top of the piano and I pulled it away, wiping it quickly, embarrassed, nervous. As soon as the first notes started to fill the room, the nerves dissipated and I sang with all that I had within me, just like I always had, like I always do. Nailed it. I thought as I walked out of the room, the butterflies dancing in my stomach again.
Waiting was the worst. It took three lunch hours for them to get through all the try-outs and then make their picks. We all (girls) gathered in a classroom on Thursday to hear whether or not we’d made the cut. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming joy when they called my name, even though that meant some of my friends didn’t get called. This is it. This is what I was made for. Chapel worship team. This is all I’ve ever wanted.
By this point in my life, I was pretty hard core about Jesus, and everyone knew it. As the years went on and I was given more responsibility and eventually all the responsibility in the worship team, my mission became larger and more worthy of the work in my eyes. I wanted my fellow classmates to know Jesus the way I did. I begged in my spirit from on stage for them to just get a taste like I had. But most of them stared at me with blank eyes and mouths that mumbled the words so it looked like they were participating.
Around the tenth grade, the guys in my class decided it was time to dole out nicknames. There was “New Kid,” whose name I struggle to remember to this day, labeled as such because he was the only new student in our class that year. “Head,” which was actually the guy’s last name, but it was said with this gangsta-style inflection that always got a reaction from anyone around. (If you watch “Community,” it’s kind of like the reaction Magnitude gets when he does his ‘Pop pop’ thing . . . except maybe not quite so much.) As you can probably guess from the title, mine was “Praise Team Girl.” At first I didn’t mind it, it was kind of a prideful thing for me. That’s right. I’m the Praise Team Girl. Then when one of the other girls on the team got pregnant, and another one dropped out and became a little unstable, Praise Team Girl suddenly had a new connotation.
“Oooh, there goes Praise Team Girl. I wonder when she’s gonna get preggers?”
“Hey Praise Team Girl, when are you going to cut all your hair off and turn gothic like so and so . . .”
There was suddenly an immense pressure to not fail, which meant that my convictions needed to become that much stronger, my feet planted deeper in what I believed. I put on a strong face and walked through my school with self-righteousness all over me, which only, of course, made things worse. I was taunted a lot, not bullied, just taunted, irritated, and lacking the right tools, I always gave them what they wanted: a reaction.
During our last year of high school, the powers that be decided to change things up and put a teacher in charge of the team, demoting me to just a regular back-up singer. That was one in a series of painful events that revolved around my worship team experience that year. Suddenly the thing that identified me wasn’t mine anymore, and I hadn’t accomplished my goal. My peers weren’t in tears on the floor during worship times, experience the Father’s goodness, healing and gripping salvation. I felt like I’d failed.
At least I could still be an example. At least I could still sit at home on Friday nights instead of getting drunk at bush parties and show up to school without red-rimmed eyes from smoking pot. At least I was still righteous. What I really was was rejected.
The guy who instigated the nicknames came to our school in the eighth grade and on the first day of school, there was some kind of interaction between us that I don’t remember, but it made an impression on him because the next day in PE, he picked me first for his team in whatever it was we were playing. He said it was because I had been nice to him. Naturally I fell in love with him on the spot and it took almost the entire school year for me to get over it. He rejected me pretty big time, repeatedly over the course of the year, and he was in our class until graduation, so I really struggled with being around him. When he started the nicknames, and mine took the course that it did, the rejection was pretty overwhelming, except I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I was lonely and felt separate from my classmates. I looked at it then as a type of martyrdom. I was the good Christian girl and they were all (mostly) the lukewarm and/or indifferent.
It took me until this week, when the Father began a healing work so deep in my heart to see what had actually happened. Recently as I was being prayed for for some back issues that I need to be healed from, the Father revealed some root issues of unforgiveness and rejection not only in my life, but in the genealogy of my family, on both sides… like buckets of the stuff. Buckets and buckets, which of course led to buckets and buckets of tears on my part as I saw the pattern the enemy had been spinning in my family.
I have always felt on the outside of things. I have always felt like an after thought. I have always felt rejected. The Father showed me that with this significant memory from high school, the reason that it was so easy to be rejected by my peers was because I was rejecting who I really was. I was never created to be the savior of my class. I was never created to be the poster child for Kelowna Christian School, and I wasn’t ever meant to stand alone, apart from my classmates. In trying to be who I thought God wanted me to be, I became who they perceived me to be: Self-righteous, judgmental, probably extremely annoying, and unacceptable. I wasn’t Julie. I was Praise Team Girl, and that was contrary to who Julie was created to be.
But God, I was such a good example, I made all the right choices. How is that a bad thing?
It wasn’t. Your choices were pleasing to me, but you made those choices for the wrong reasons.
In trying so hard to be who I thought I was supposed to be and be accepted at the same time, all I reaped was rejection, which led to a slew of other things worse than that: self-loathing, condemnation, unworthiness . . . the list goes on, and I have made agreements with all of these lies over the past however many years, and it explains so much of why I struggle with what I struggle with, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. On Monday morning I began to break the agreements that I’ve made, I began to forgive the faces that have haunted me for years, and I forgave myself for not knowing any better. I began to cut off the root systems that go deeply into my family’s past that have been allowed to grow and twist, branch off and grow new root systems that have threatened to strangle me. This is the part that is the hardest. This is the part that is continuing. Every morning I sit down and say, “Lord, where are going today?” and within seconds I’m taken back to a memory and I have to cut off the roots that sprouted that wound. I could probably sit here for a year and do this.
Like I said, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.