Zits, Bullies, and Sea Gulls
Junior high wasn’t fun for me. Kids loved to mock my thirteen-year-old 6’4″ clumsy, weirdly-put-together body. On top of my much-larger-than-average body was a much-bigger-than-average head, covered with a much-thicker-than-average layer of much-grosser-than-average zits (which would explain why classmates often called me “pizza face”). Throw in the fact that I was a very poor preacher’s kid (which meant that I both dressed and acted differently), and I became a target for a lot of taunting.
A group of bullies often lurked around corners waiting for me. They never really harmed me, but they did enjoy surrounding and shoving me around until they got bored and moved on. I. Hated. School. And I didn’t think things could get any worse until the day when—with a bunch of kids standing around me—a flock of sea gulls flew overhead and turned me into a sea gull bathroom. It wasn’t enough that humans mocked me; even the birds dumped their stuff on me.
Reasons for Respect
My junior high years were miserable because bullies and birds failed to show me respect. In fact, I didn’t even show me respect. The bullies didn’t know, the birds didn’t realize, and I didn’t understand, just who I was. My junior high crisis—which a lot of you know from experience isn’t just a junior high thing—was due to a personhood crisis. My problem was that I didn’t understand (and the bullies didn’t either) what it meant to be a person in God’s eyes. I wonder if you know what it means. Not many people do. Yet we all need to. So to help with that, can I suggest that you check three things when you look in the mirror everyday?
First, check your label. Shoppers read labels to see who made what they want to buy. Why? Because the designer/maker matters. The label helps us know value. So why not check your label to see what it says? “Made in heaven by God and in God’s image” (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13-18; James 3:9). That’s right. You are not an accident. You are made by God to be like God. You’re a glory-crowned person created by an amazing Person to be like that Person in a lot of amazing ways (Psalm 8:4-6; Ephesians 4:20-24). God made you to do great things, to live and love, and to be glad and good, just like he is. And with his help you will! This gives you worth and dignity that no one can ever take away from you.
Second, check your price tag. I’m sure you know by now that you are a sinner. We all are. But what you may not know is that because we are sinners we owe the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). This means that we deserve God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). While that’s pretty heavy, here’s the thing: Jesus paid your debt off on the cross, and set you free with the very expensive price of his own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). So think about it: how precious are you to God, and how much does he love you? You are so precious and cherished that he came here to earth to voluntarily die in your place, even when you were a sinner who didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8-10).
Third, check your boarding pass. If you’ve ever been on a plane you’ve been given a boarding pass that tells you your final destination. So what does your boarding pass say? Mine says: “Destination: The Kingdom of heaven.” If you love Jesus, yours does, too. We are made for eternity—an eternity full of honor and never-fading glory where we will reign with Jesus (Psalm 8:5; Romans 2:9-10; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Revelation 5:9-10; 1 Peter 2:9). You and I are going to live as kings forever! Think about it. Your Father is the King, and you’re destined to help him rule the universe. Let that sink in.
So your label, your price tag, and your boarding pass all tell you the same thing: you matter. And you matter to God. As hard as life sometimes gets, and as cruel as people sometimes are, this is what can get you through.
Don’t Give Up; Look Up
In case you hadn’t noticed, I survived the identity crisis of my youth—and have lived long to tell about it. Through all these years I’ve been learning how much I matter to God; even when it’s hard to tell. You will learn this, too. Meanwhile, try not to give up. Instead, try to look up. See that God loves you and has made you for special things. Your value is not measured by your pimple count, clothing style, street address, skin color, or number of pounds. It’s what God has put in you that counts. You are a human being. You are not a loser or a nobody. You. Are. Somebody. The label you wear, the price tag Jesus paid, and the destination on your boarding pass all say so. And I hope you never forget it.
And while you’re learning your worth in God’s heart, remember to respect that worth in others, too. The Lord Jesus—who has loved you so much to die for you—wants you to love and respect others. Everyone. Everywhere. All the time. So whenever you’re tempted to bully, mock or ignore someone, be sure to remember their label, price tag, and boarding pass, too. Your life and love will never be the same.
Timothy M. Shorey is lead pastor of Risen Hope Church in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. He is the author of Respect the Image: Reflecting Human Worth in How We Listen and Talk. He and Gayline have been married for 42 years, and have six grown children and 13 grandchildren. For more, visit www.timothyshorey.com.