Overcoming My 7th Grade Self

I don’t know about you, but 7th grade was not exactly a banner year for me. In the melodramatic world of Queen Bees and Wannabees, I was the dorky, glaringly unathletic one who never made the team because she couldn’t throw a softball past 20 yards (no seriously) but loved watching History Channel biographies and diagramming sentences (do schools still do that?). Seemingly overnight, I went from being in a BFF, lunch-table-securing clique to being the socially leprous outsider in the same group of girls. Please tell me I wasn’t the only who wrote out an hourly (yes…hourly) countdown of when the school year would be over!

And, trust me, I know my year was a cakewalk compared to some of your experiences. Seems like none of us got out of middle school unscathed. A group of people actually started a website called “The Awkward Years Project,” where now-adults could post pictures of their younger selves and the self-perceptions they had to overcome. Even better, people are starting to write letters to their “15-year-old-selves,” saying what they wish they’d known, done differently, or how they were overly self-absorbed or concerned with other people’s opinions.

We’re all grown up now. We got past that awkward phase with braces off, contact lenses discovered,  and noses in proper proportion to rest of our faces. We found our voice, our passion, our path, and, hopefully, Father who always thought we were one of the cool kids.

But sometimes, I wonder if we aren’t still our 7th grade selves? We act like we’re still that awkward girl who feels like she doesn’t quite fit it. It comes out in how we downplay our gifts or accomplishments, or how we’re afraid to venture out to a new opportunity. It’s in our fear of making new friends or the silent self-whisperings that “there’s no way he’ll ever be into me.” It can even be underneath the surface in how we relate to God, wondering if He really loves us or wanted us and if we can really trust Him with those insecure places of the heart.

In his beautiful work, The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning says, “Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from opinions about yourself.” That’s pretty good food for thought . . . and quite in harmony with Scripture. How does God give us that kind of freedom? First, He changes who we are, then He gives everything we need to live in our new identity (check out Romans 6-8, 2 Peter 1:3-4). The link between these two is what we choose to believe about ourselves. It all starts with believing the truth of who God says we are. (John 8:31-32). Let that sink in… believing the truth of who God says we are. He’s the only One whose opinion defines us.

I don’t know what year it was for you. Maybe it was the one where they called you fat, or ugly, or stupid. Maybe it was the one when they teased you about your name, or made fun of your shoes. The one where you were left out, pushed out, or not asked out. The one where you started dieting and eventually stopped eating. The one when you started cutting to try dulling the pain. The one when he broke your heart. The one when you lost your innocence. Whenever it was, time has long passed but somehow you’re still stuck there.

But if you are in Christ, there’s something your 7th grade self needs to know. And if you’ve never heard it before, allow me the honor of giving you some seriously good news. It might feel like one of the toughest things to believe, but it’s one of the truest things about you. Here it is:

You’re not that girl anymore.

You are new. (2 Cor 5:17)

You are wanted, celebrated, and completely on purpose. (Is 43:1-4, Ps 139, Is 62:5)

You are loved by God, pursued by God, and redeemed by God. (Jer 31:3, Luke 15:2-7, Eph 1:7)

You are so blessed that all of His promises were meant for you before you even knew you needed them! (2 Cor 1:20)

The One who speaks planets into existence wants to completely transform your self-perception and set you on a whole new course for your future. It all starts with believing the truth of who you are and what He says about you. Consider this: God set us free from your bondage to sin (Rom 6:1-7), your well-deserved death (Rom 5:21), and heavy coat of shame (Ps 34:5). He’s given you a new start (Rev 21:5), real life (Jn 3:16), and a robe of righteousness (Is 61:10). If He’s already done all of that, how much does this staggeringly generous, extravagantly loving Father want you to be unhindered by the weight of crippling insecurity (Rom 8:32)? A lot.

So what do you need to say to your 7th grade self? What has God said about you that you need to believe about you? What middle school memories try to compete for your identity? Are you willing to let God, through His Word and His Spirit, undo the lies that have kept you stuck so you can be who you really are? It might take time. It always takes truth. And it definitely takes trust. But as sure as Jesus is alive, you can overcome your 7th grade self (Rom 6:4).

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!

~ Eph. 3:20-21