“And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.”
Joel 2:25photo: BBC Nature
When I was in grade school, I had to leave the small private school I was attending and go to the local public elementary school. It was not really my choice, but a financial necessity. I was uneasy about attending, as I knew no one there….That is where I met Jett.
Tall, thin and gangly, he had a mean mouth and mangled black hair. He had long thin fingers that he used to pinch, poke and point at anyone unlucky enough to come within his grasp. Harsh to most people, Jett was a master at digging out the thing that you were most insecure about…which was just about everything for me. Yup, this boy took one look at the small, shy and awkward waif that was me and he knew he had his next victim.
Jett took great pleasure embarrassing me in front of other kids. He would trip me, pull my hair, call me names and once smacked me really hard in the chest. As a young girl who was just beginning puberty, it was extremely painful and mortifying. I could never understand why he hated me so much, and I tried very hard to either avoid him, or be nice so he would leave me alone. His bullying just deepened my insecurity, and I cried frequently about it. I didn’t allow anyone to see how upset he could make me because I didn’t want to be further teased. Alas, the abuse lasted through elementary school, but finally it was time for middle school… and all students were districted to various schools…Jett did not go to mine. Whew…..
Over the next couple of years, I grew up a little, developed a thick skin and became rather jaded and hard-hearted myself. Which was in some ways a good thing, as who was redistricted again, but to my high school come 9th grade? You guessed it, Jett.
Strangely enough, he stayed away from me, seems he had his hands full being the “new” kid this time. As my 4 years went on in school, I became active in sports and scholarship and developed some popularity and so was rather impervious to the Jett’ s of the world. But I never forgot the lesson his bullying taught me, and as a result kept my heart pretty tucked in with most people.
Fast forward 20 years later, I attended my high school reunion, which was held at a restaurant/bar in my home town. As I made my way through the crowd, enjoying the renewal of old acquaintances, I noticed or rather felt a man staring at me from across the room. He was holding arm crutches, the permanent kind that wrap around your forearms. He had a metal brace on his leg. His body looked broken and bent and it was clear he could not stand straight. The man had heavy dentures, which was odd, as he appeared to be young. His jaw was misshapen and his skin was scarred in places, as if it had been torn badly. Fussing and clucking over him was a young woman of a different nationality, speaking Spanish and clearly bossing him around.
The man continued to stare at me. Looking up, I noticed his eyes were wet with tears. He said something to the woman. She looked at me and walked over and spoke my name in English. She asked me to come with her. Confused and curious, I followed. She introduced me to her husband. It was Jett. I was shocked to see him, and could barely recognize him. Upon seeing him though, my little kid internal defenses returned. I braced for a negative comment from him.
Strangely enough, he was happy to see me! He smiled and reached out to shake my hand. He suddenly exclaimed, “Meeting you here is an answer to my prayers!”
“Excuse me?” I asked incredulously. My head was reeling and I was trying to figure it all out. I just wasn’t sure of what to think. Then he caught sight of my necklace, a silver cross my mother gave me a year previous.
A big smile came across that gnarled mouth and he asked, “Why do you wear that, the cross I mean?”
My hand quickly went to the dainty cross at my throat protectively and I wasn’t sure what to say. So I gulped and told the truth. “I wear this as a reminder of who I belong to.” I answered.
“I knew it! I could tell.”
“Tell what?” I said again.
“You are a believer aren’t you?” He asked.
Ok, I was really confused, but yes, I had become a follower of Jesus Christ only a couple of years before and I was still very young in my own faith. I nodded yes.
“Me too!” he exclaimed.
Jett clasped my hand in both of his and proceeded to explode with details of how he found his “new life.” He was in the military, stationed overseas. He met his wife there. He was an alcoholic. He had been in a horrific accident. In the laborious process of healing his body and dealing with anger, and through the love and mentoring of his then girlfriend, (now wife) he had met Jesus Christ.
“I never knew how dried up my life was back then. I knew I was self-destructing, but I didn’t know how to stop it.” He told me that for the first time in his life, he finally felt alive and was so thankful to be here. I couldn’t help look in wonder, as what I saw was a totally broken body that would most likely remain that way the rest of his earthly life…yet, he was completely filled with joy.
Jett told me he had wanted to find me for years and apologize for all the pain he had caused me. He asked my forgiveness. I was stunned, but now it was my turn to cry and of course, I easily gave it. The three of us talked for what seemed like the whole evening, as Jett told me about the pain he had experienced as child, in his own home, at the hands of a parent. All those years of hurting others was his response to being hurt. That doesn’t make it right, it does make him human. As I left to return home that evening, I said farewell to Jett and his wife. It occurred to me that though he sought my forgiveness, he too gave me a gift. My heart was cleaned of resentment and unforgiveness I had harbored all those years toward him. Unhappy school girl memories faded. God knew what both of us needed. His gift to us, and ours to one another?
Restoration. Which was in His will all along.
James 5:6 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Acts 3:19-2119 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.