Throwback moment to middle school. Something about reading of the fiery furnace and the distorted rage in King Nebuchadnezzar‘s face took me back to the threats of a best friend turned enemy.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:13-15, NLT.
I was near facing fire when I wouldn’t submit to her way–her walk down a destructive path. I was subject to her taunts and name calling at the corner walking home. Girls who had been my friends abandoned me to avoid the heat of her hardened heart. I was told she waited by my locker once, ready to set it on fire.
It wasn’t as though I had some great moral platform and a lineage of wisdom and righteousness to support me. It was more that I was afraid of where her path would take me if I followed, and, lacking mature tools to handle conflict at fourteen, I did the only thing I could do: put one foot in front of the other and walk on. I don’t remember much of the remainder of that school year. And starting high school in a new school the next year was lonely as I tried to find my fit. Little did I know then: middle school was the boot camp for real life.
I found that the dynamics that governed eighth graders govern adults too; people in little bodies grow into bigger bodies with egos and expectations just as large. And while it seems unimaginable that someone would erect a statue of themselves today and demand an audience to worship them, it’s not beyond reason that someone could turn hard against those who are different or don’t cater to their demands.
11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 1 John 3:11-14, NLT.
In middle school and in middle life, I think on those times of a solitary walk and am comforted by this: God was with me. When I thought I stood alone, he stood with me. When I thought I walked alone, he walked beside me. And when an enemy attacked and flamed me with words, God whispered to me, “Walk on.” And he took my hand.
Lord, I’m grateful that I can see your very real presence in my life–even in years before I ever went to church or opened a Bible. Thank you for standing with me when I felt unable to stand, and thank you for urging me on when I felt too weary to walk. Thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ who’ve prayed for me and loved me as part of your family. I wondered how I could ever be thankful for experiences that brought so much heartache, but you’ve shown me yourself when I thought I had nothing. I may not be able to count on (people, situations), but I can trust in you and the power of your spirit. You amaze me.