A Comforting Freedom

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic
At school Steph is labelled a 'Jesus Freak'. She's bullied and tortured for her faith but tends not to seek friendship or comfort from anyone because she's developed the notion that 'Jesus is all she needs'. Why does she feel so empty though? Can she be persuaded otherwise?

Submitted: April 06, 2010

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Submitted: April 06, 2010

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It took just one hard shove in the shoulder for Steph’s books to sail out of her arms and spread across the corridor. Her class notes were now foot mats for the other students who tread passed her, not even giving her a second glance.
She watched as the offender walked away, giggling with her friends and making this incident out to be some sort of joke. There wasn’t a day that something like this didn’t happen. Steph never got a moment of peace at school, not while she was an outsider. Not while she was still the Jesus freak who was the centre of everyone’s jokes and the easy target for the ‘popular girls’ who craved causing humiliation at someone else’s expense.
Steph crawled across the corridor, risking a boot to the head or a heel to her side. She tried to salvage as many of her notes as possible, gathering them all up loosely and then taking off outside as if nothing had ever happened.
This had all begun when Steph had moved into town with her parents a few months ago. She had to build a whole new life in her new town and try to maintain her faith in a public school. And as she discovered, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Her favourite Bible verse, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and a song she’d heard at church, ‘Jesus, you’re all I need’ created a new lifestyle for her which segregated her. Made her an outsider. A recluse. She’d decided she didn’t need anyone but God.
“So you think you’re going to be saved because you read a book?” Nina and her friends approached Steph where she sat with her Bible, not raising her eyes for a second. “None of that stuff’s real. You just look pathetic.”
Steph tried her best to ignore the remarks and she kept her eyes on the pages, hoping they’d give up.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” Nina grabbed the Bible and thrust it onto the ground, creasing the pages and evoking a silent response in Steph, her eyes shooting up to meet Nina’s.
Nina picked up the Bible, opening it to a random page. “I cry aloud to the Lord, I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.” She looked at Steph. “Is this what you do, huh? Ask your God to save you?” Nina grabbed the top of the page and ripped it down the centre, tearing off the entire page and scrunching it up in her hand. She smirked, noticing Steph’s startled reaction. “Ask him to stop me. Ask him to strike me down. Go on. Do it.” She threw the scrunched up page at Steph, annoyed that she wasn’t retaliating.
“Hey!”
Nina and her friends turned around to see Erin, one of their classmates, heading towards them.
“Are you so bored with your own lives that you have to interfere in someone else’s?” Erin stood before them, hands on her hips and showing authority. She was the type of girl that Nina wanted in her group. Pretty, fiery, smart and a complete guy magnet. Someone Nina saw as a threat to her reputation. Erin knew what they were like though and didn’t have any time for them whatsoever.
Nina motioned for her friends to follow her, knowing she would be fighting a losing battle. As she began to walk away she spat in Steph’s direction, “Freak.”
Erin reached down and picked up Steph’s Bible, straightening out the pages and handing it to her, giving her a kind smile.
“You okay?” Erin took a seat beside her.
“Fine.” Steph ran her hand over the Bible, dusting off the cover and keeping her eyes downcast.
“They’ll get sick of it, trust me.” Erin reassured her.
“I don’t care about them.” Steph shrugged and stood up.
“Hey.” Erin touched her arm softly. “Look, if you ever want to talk about anything…”
“I’ll be fine.”
A few weeks later when Steph stepped through the front door from school, she instantly heard her parents’ voices in the kitchen. She stopped to listen when she realised they were talking about her.
“We’re just so worried about her, Kelly.”
At this, Steph knew they were speaking to the youth worker from their church.
“She always pushes people away. I don’t think she has any friends at school and we’ve been called about incidences of bullying too. Ever since we moved it’s been the same thing. She just locks herself up in her room and never says anything to us, does she Paul?”
“No, she doesn’t. It’s a real concern, Kelly. Would you mind speaking to her? She won’t listen to us.”
Steph moved away from the door and headed down the hallway towards her room, closing the door quietly behind her. She threw her bag against the wall and sunk down onto her bed, holding her Bible close to her chest. Nina had given her more grief earlier that day, calling her a prude and exerting her presumed authority to bring her down. It had worked. She thought she might just snap if Erin hadn’t stepped in. Again.
“God, why did you make some people so cruel?” Steph sobbed. “I didn’t think Christians could be susceptible to bullying. You have control over people. Why don’t you do something? I do everything for you!”
Steph got up and pulled open the top two drawers of her desk, pulling out pieces of paper. Letters beginning with ‘Dear God…’
She read the first sentence of one, ‘Save me from the cruelty of the world’ before ripping it to shreds and letting the pieces fall to the floor. She pulled out a few more. ‘Give me the strength to stand up for you.’ ‘Help me get through today.’ ‘Be my protector.’
“You never listen to me…” Steph began to furiously screw up the pages, one after the other. “I give everything for you and you give nothing in return…” She picked up her Bible and thrust it with great force against her wall, listening to the thud of it against the floor.
“Why don’t you ever talk to me?” She shouted, kicking her drawers shut and then hearing a knock on her bedroom door, calming herself down and sweeping the scrunched up pages aside.
“Stephy?” It was her dad. “Can we come in?”
A soft grunt of acknowledgment was an indication that it was okay to enter. The door squeaked open slowly and Kelly appeared alongside Steph’s parents, a smile plastered on her face. A sympathetic smile? Steph didn’t want company. Not while she already had some.
Kelly nodded to Paul and Kath indicating she’d be fine.
“Hey Steph.” Kelly stepped in, closing the door behind her. “Thought I’d pop around for a visit. The youth’s having a games night tonight. Interested?”
Steph shrugged. “Not really.”
“Okay.” Kelly took a seat on the chair at Steph’s desk. “But it’d be great to have you come along. There are a lot of great kids that go. You’d really enjoy it.”
Steph shook her head. “I don’t think so. I don’t get much out of that sort of thing.”
“Really? You’d make some nice friends. A few go to your school as well. Erin Wilson usually comes along. She’s in your class at school, yeah?”
Steph had seen Erin at church a few times but when her parents stayed around afterwards for a chat, she made her own way home. She much preferred to spend time alone with God.
“Yeah. Look, Kelly, I know my parents sent you to talk to me. I’m fine though. And I don’t need youth group. But thanks.”
Kelly sighed. “Steph, locking yourself up isn’t healthy. What’s going on?”
“Nothing.”
“You don’t talk to anyone. You don’t have friends. You shut yourself off from your parents.”
“I have all I need right here.”
“Do you?”
Steph nodded. “I’ve got God. He’s all we need, right? I don’t see why everyone expects more from life. And I don’t understand why people want me to have so much more than what I need.”
“Having God in your life is a great thing. But Steph, you’re denying yourself of the most beautiful thing God has given us.”
“What?”
“Friendship.”
“But I already have friendship.”
“Yeah. We’re all friends of God and when we accept that, it’s also a beautiful thing. But do you think it’s healthy to only have a friendship with God?”
“Of course. We hear those songs- ‘God, you’re all I need. All I need is you.’ He should be all we need. Our entire lives should be centred on Him. Aren’t I right?”
Kelly shook her head. “Not entirely. Why did God make other human beings? Why didn’t He just leave Adam as the only man on earth if all he needed was God?”
“So that we could serve Him. Our selfish nature has turned us to feel like we need friendships with other people. We want to feel love and experience it first hand. I don’t think a lot of people have accepted God’s love for us and that’s why they feel like they need friendships with people in the flesh.”
“I think that’s where you’re wrong. Didn’t God say that it’s not good for man to be alone? Okay, so Adam wasn’t alone because he had God. But on a horizontal dimension, Adam was alone. He needed someone on his own level that he could relate to. It’s not right for us to have individualistic relationships with God. We were made to love everyone. We were made to be relational. That’s how we’re defined.”
“Then how can we be fully focussed on God if we also focus on relationships with other people?”
Kelly smiled. “God didn’t make us to just love Him. He made us to also love like Him. By living in loving relationships with people, we’re fulfilling God’s purpose for us.”
“I thought our purpose was to serve and praise Him?”
“It is. But it’s also to be a loving creation of God. A wise man said, ‘We’re not persons if we isolate ourselves from others – we are egos.We become persons in relationship.’”
“So you’re saying I’m not a person?”
Kelly laughed and stood up, making her way over to Steph. “What I’m saying is that it’s not a sin to get close to people. It doesn’t mean your love for God is faltered in any way. It’s what He wants from you.”
Steph didn’t respond. She was overwhelmed by everything Kelly was telling her. Had she really been so blinded by her own understanding of God that she’d reluctantly pushed people away because she wanted to be the best Christian ever? Had she really fallen so deep in a hole of misunderstanding that she needed rescuing that bad? Everything her parents had said about relationships being the stronghold of our lives suddenly made sense. Had it taken a simple explanation such as ‘relationships make us people’ for her to finally understand?
“I hope you’ll come tonight. I’d love to see you there.” Kelly smiled and squeezed Steph’s arm softly before leaving her room.
Was this God responding to her earlier demand? Had He sent Kelly to set her straight? Was this His way of gently telling her He needed her to love like Him? Love like Him. Did this mean she had to love Nina and her friends instead of secretly wanting to rip out their hair?
That night, Steph stepped through the chapel doors timidly, clutching her Bible close to her hip. She saw some kids she knew and others she didn’t chatting together. Laughing. Mucking around and having the best time. She suddenly wanted that so bad. And she didn’t feel the guilt anymore like she did when she craved a friend to speak to. Someone she could laugh with. She felt excitement boil up inside her and create a smile that she thought she could only produce when she spent time with God.
She spotted Kelly sitting with a young girl, chatting away and no doubt speaking encouraging words to her. That was when Steph saw Erin come out from the back room and raise her eyebrows as she spotted her. She didn’t hesitate as she approached Steph, giving her a beaming smile and inviting her into a hug which Steph found herself accept gratefully.
“It’s so great to see you here, Steph.”
Steph suddenly felt a great warmth towards Erin. She didn’t realise how much she missed such a small action like a hug. How much she missed opening herself up to the presence of another person. And she was suddenly grateful that God had created people so that she could experience the delight of someone else’s company.

Steph pulled away, not even realising she’d begun to cry. She wiped her eyes, feeling the comfort of Erin’s hand taking her own. She looked up and realised she didn’t even need to force a smile. It just came naturally. “Can we have that talk now?”


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