Dear Bill

Dear Bill,

I am sure you don’t remember me. I was a student at Northstar Christian Academy some where between 1978 and 1979.

From what I remember I did not graduate from your program, I am sure I ran away at some point as I had run away from home several times before being enrolled in your program. In other words I was not one of your star pupils.

Once I left Northstar I purposely put that part of my life behind me preferring never to look back. Except for a few forays into looking for some of my friends I never thought again about you or the school.

Recently I ran across a classmate and got curious and ended up finding the Northstar facebook group. WOW talk about memories long buried.

I stayed up until 3 in the morning going through posts and pics of the community wondering why it brought such a mixture of pain and anger.

Then I remembered. I remembered the day you caught me smoking upstairs in the girls bathroom, and I remembered the things you said to me that day that have followed me and reminded me of my lack of worth for 35 years. Yes, your words were that powerful to a 15 year old girl.

You told me that afternoon that I was worthless. That I would never be anything in my life, accomplish anything, mean anything to anyone in my life. You told me that NO ONE would EVER invest in me the time and the money that you and your school had invested in me in the last 6 months. You told me that I would never find anyone again to give me the things that you and your school gave me.

I want you to know something. I forgive you. I make no excuse for your words or the hurt they unleashed in my heart, wounding me so deep. I just forgive you for those words and wounds. I know that you love the Lord and so I know that all is under the blood. I no longer have to live with your words or your wounds.

I want you to know something else. I found someone to love me. In fact, I found two people who love me wholly, unconditionally and forever.

The first one is Jesus Christ. He saw my sin, my brokenness, my ugly and my dirty and He loved me in it. He saw my worth because He is the one who created me. He did not just stop at loving me, He redeemed all of those parts in me that were deemed worthless by others. He invested His son, His very life for me and in me.

The second one is my husband of 27 years. I have been married to an amazingly loving and faithful man for 27 years. He is a man that saw me in my humanity and looked past it for a hidden treasure and found it in me. I know! it amazed me too. But here I am married and loved for 27 years. My husband has invested tens of thousands of hours and dollars into me because he loves me.

I have four amazing kids. Kids who love me no matter what mistakes I have made or will make. I have five beautiful grandbabies who think I am the best nana in the world.

You were wrong Bill. You were wrong when you said I was worthless, you were wrong when you said no one could ever love me enough to invest in me. You were wrong.

But God knew I was more than your words and what you saw. Just like I know you are more than the words you said to me that unforgettable day. I read the words of the young men and women that you have impacted in a beautiful way, and I know the Lord is pleased with that.

I hope your health continues to improve and I hope that you reap the beautiful harvest that you have sowed.

Beth Heyniger Connell.

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Entitled Respect?……NOT

I’m not going to lie, I was a difficult teen. If you ask me I was probably kind of bitchy and self centered…..at least to most adults. You see, most adults did not earn my loyalty or my respect. The ones who did earn my respect got it…in spades.

Funny how the adults who I respected and loved the most, are the ones who demanded my respect because they loved me, not because they deserved it. It wasn’t about who they were, or their station in life, or position in the world. It was about “Hey, I have seen you at your ugliest and I still love you, show some respect for that fact”.

Harriet Carion, Connie and Michael Howel, Karen Kline, Sam, Coach Mike King, Bud Lang, Jerry and Rena Cook Paul and Susan Zollman, Judy Hanke, Mary White, Pastor Violet Kitely. That’s just off the top of my head, I am sure there are more, my respect for all of these people is huge….and my love.

Then there were the adults, usually some kind of Pastor, who demanded respect because they thought they deserved it because A. they were Christian and B. they were pastors of some kind or another……..

I can name several and their spouses too. But I won’t. Partly because it is not my intention with this post to trash people who live in my past, but also because my experience with these people is not the sum totally of their parts.

By that I mean the very same people who ripped my heart out of me, who’s words sunk down deeply into my soul and continued to hurt me for decades, those same people brought life and hope and healing to countless others.

It is the paradox that bewilders me. The cause of my deepest hurt is the same as the cause of someone else’s deepest joy…….and God is good in both of those. My no is another’s yes, and God is still good in it. I don’t understand it…..

I was told I was worthless once, that was the exact word he used. Worthless. by a man who was a Christian leader, the head of my school. He went on to tell me that absolutely no one would ever do or invest in me the kind of time and money he and his school had invested in me, some two or three thousand dollars. I would never be anything, I was a disappointment. All the while demanding that I respect him…….I had been caught smoking a cigarette ( gasp ) in the girls bathroom.

A few years later I was busted smoking again, this time caught by the spouse of a church leader, a youth pastor, in the womens bathroom at a youth event. After she got done giving me the what for she never spoke to me again. Yet they still demanded that I respect them……and stupidly for many years I did. Because by then the stage of my heart had been set. I was worthless and these people were God’s chosen ones, I wasn’t worth loving, my heart wasn’t worth going after. And so being worthless I must respect those that were worth God’s amazing love.

for smoking. A cigarette.

Sometimes it is a wonder I am a Christian at all. So many Christians have it so backwards, They DEMAND your adulation and respect and IF they get enough of it you can be gifted with their love. If you do get to be one of the chosen frozen, you will be given unconditional love and respect and they will speak life into you. But if you are like I was, distrustful, cynical, a tad disrespectful, dirty, messy, un-saved, un-Christian…..and if you don’t tow the line just right you get words of death spoken over you that follow you for the rest of your life.

The same Christian with two different outcomes in a young persons life….God is good in both.

Because I learned to love people or at least try to love the un-loveable. I learned to try to love the messy and the stinky. I learned to at the very least extend kindness and compassion even when it would seem others don’t deserve it. God took all that hurt and used it for something better. God is good.

I have learned to love before demanding respect and trust. I have learned to look beyond the ugly behavior. I have learned that someone who is honest about being bad and messy is worth the investment. I have learned to look for the good and try to bring that out, try to show others a kindness that I wasn’t given.

And no I do not do any of it perfectly. I can be and would be judgmental and harsh. I can be prideful in thinking I am better than others. I am still self centered and selfish and I still hurt others without meaning too out of my selfishness.

But I try to take the words of death that were spoken in my heart and use them to love on someone else. I will always encourage the best in you because no matter how bad you are ( unless you are a rapist, serial killer or a pedophile ) I believe you are bigger and better than the sum total of your parts.

I cannot demand respect from anyone. I do not deserve it. Only God deserves it. And if you think about His amazing example, He loved us, in our mess, in our ugly, in our utter lack of regard and respect for Him, that love caused us to turn our hearts and lives to Him. Should I do any less for those who don’t deserve it? Should Christians anywhere do any less.

Love is about serving, not demanding that someone respect us. Maybe (myself included) Christians should go about the example of God, give love, not demand it.