Nine weeks into seventh grade, my family moved from a big suburb of a metropolitan area to a tiny logging town in the middle of nowhere. Scio's population was 580 and as we rolled into town, we laughed at the "Congestion" sign on the road in front of the mill.
Being a city girl transplanted to the country during junior high was not an easy transition. I stood out like a sore thumb and couldn't quite seem to find a place I felt comfortable. My insecurity made me an easy target for a couple of girls in my class, and they bullied me. I in turn, found someone I viewed as vulnerable and bullied her. Kids can be cruel and in many ways, my years in high school were marred by the pain of being bullied and the guilt of bullying someone in return.
I fled from Scio as soon as I graduated. 2,000 miles didn't seem far enough, but it was a good start. 17 years have passed and most memories from high school have faded into oblivion. The majority of the memories that remained were unfortunately ones of pain and guilt. I wanted to make things right, but was scared to face my past and instead, did my best to hide from anything Scio-related.
This summer we moved back to Oregon. I was thrilled to be home, but nervous about encountering someone that might recognize me and tag me as "from Scio." I changed my Facebook network to Portland, added my maiden name, and VIOLA! I started getting friend requests from people I went to high school. When Tiffany "friended" me, I almost fell off my chair. The one person I was hoping to avoid, best case scenario - forever, was friending me. I said yes, with the intent of snooping on her, then "unfriending" her once my curiosity was quenched.
To my dismay, she was nice. Still married to her high school sweetheart. Two kids. Active in her church. Loved Jesus. Had a wild side that resonated with me. I did my best to find something not to like about her and came up empty. We exchanged "catch up" emails and through our email exchanges, I felt the pain and insecurities of so long-ago that had become a protection mechanism swirl to the surface my heart. I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, "Are you ready to let go of that yet?" Over Facebook we reconciled, and as I felt the weight of that burden lift, my spirit soared in freedom.
But the guilt of my cruelty lingered. I saw Heidi on Tiffany's list of friends and inquired if it was "the Heidi" that received the brunt of my anger in high school. When I received confirmation, I prayed, then friended Heidi. To my surprise, she accepted my friend request and we exchanged a brief "how have you been" email. I got right to the point and told her how sorry I was for being so mean. I asked her to forgive me and she was gracious enough to extend forgiveness to me. Another barrier from the past lifted and freedom reigned. I giggled as I thought of how creative God is in His desire to bring forgiveness and reconciliation. Who would have thought He would use Facebook to heal hurts we'd carried around for 17 years?
This afternoon, I opened my door to greet both Heidi and Tiffany. We embraced. Long, warm hugs of friendship restored. Heidi brought her two kids who match up in age perfectly with my youngest two, and while the kids played with every toy in the house, the three of us sat around the table and did our best to condense 17 years into 4 hours.
We shared stories of meeting our spouses. We talked about God using pain in our lives to shape us into the women we are now. We referreed fights between our kids. Tiffany, who is beyond the toddler years in parenting, got to sit and giggle quietly over the absurdity of things kids this age find offensive. We talked and talked and talked. It was glorious.
We were all similar versions of who we were in high school with some battle scars, but infinitely more beautiful from walking through 17 years of life experience with Jesus by our sides. As we said our goodbyes, I felt like we had barely scratched the surface of all we had to talk about. I watched them drive away and felt the power of forgiveness wash over me. Thank you God for fresh starts and friendships restored.