PictureI was so introverted in high school that I didn't have a single friend. No one to talk to, and no purpose to live. If I did kill myself, I thought, who'd even care? Whose life would be affected if I took mine? With my dad at work so much and my mom away from home for months at a time, I knew it could be days before they even noticed I was gone. And that scared me.

Our family had just moved, and as a junior in high school my whole life seemed uprooted and unsettled. There I was, the new kid in school and so shy that I couldn't talk to anyone. I couldn't even raise my hand in class. I was hiding deep inside myself: afraid and alone.

I never really knew the love and security of a family life. Even though from all practical aspects we had the characteristics of a family - we lived in the same house, had the same parents - our house, not a home, was like a hotel of individuals, each going his own way. We didn't talk or eat together, and I felt in the way.

I was told I was ugly and grew up believing it was true. I felt that I had to apologize for my existence every time someone looked at me. One day when our class was getting pictures taken for the yearbook, I broke down and cried when the photographer asked me to smile.

"What do I have to smile about?" I thought.

To compensate for my social failures, I filled my life with academics and the pursuit of knowledge. Still, there was that gnawing emptiness within me that no accomplishment or success could satisfy. My life was falling apart at the seams, and I could no longer hold the pieces together.

I was not aware, at the time that my loving Father in heaven was using the difficult circumstances of my life to prepare my heart to reach out to Him, to receive of His love.

In a family of nine, I often felt lost in the crowd. One Christmas every one received gifts but me. It was just an oversight, of course; my mother had to buy presents for so many. But no words could ease the pain I felt inside when the presents were all opened and none were for me. Forgotten!

One of the more cruel members of my high school class enjoyed making fun of my timidity by drawing attention to me with comments like, "What's the matter, can't you talk?" "Do you have a voice?" Then he'd Iaugh when he had made me cry.

When the day came that a squad car pulled up and took my mom away in a straitjacket, with five men trying to hold her down, I finally felt that I could take no more. Although my mom had often been removed from our home for "an extended rest," this time I thought, if this is all life has to offer, forget it!

One night, unable to sleep because of the turmoil within me, I wished I would just die and never wake up. I decided that I would either find out what life was all about or call it quits. In my desperation I complained to the God of my youth, whose Iaws I'd been taught but whose heart I'd never known. I told him my troubles and somehow sensed that he understood.

It felt so good to tell someone how I was feeling! In all my years of church going, I'd never really talked to God Iike this. My concept of God was extremely distorted. I pictured Him as some distant, impersonal Being, way up there someplace, too busy running the universe to be concerned about little me. And, although I had heard Him referred to as the "Saviour of the World," still I didn't know He had died for me!

I poured out my heart to him. "No one loves me," I cried.

"Remember," He said, "that I love you." "But how can I know that?" I pleaded.

Then he reminded me of the cross. The picture of perfect love. Now my tears were filled with hope. His was a Iove I could not deny.

PictureThe next day a girl in school told me how real God was to her and how she found comfort and guidance by reading the Bible. She invited me to go to church with her, and when I heard the minister's message of God's personal involvement in people's lives, I wept uncontrollably. Never had I heard such words of life and hope.

Several young people came and put their arms around me telling me that they loved me, and that God loved me, too.

They also invited me to a youth retreat that weekend. Early one morning, sitting on a rock by a quiet lake in Georgia, as the sun arose to light this new day, I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

Over the next several days I poured over the Scriptures. "For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." (Proverbs 4:22). I knew there was much healing that needed to take place in my heart; and from any emotional scars that remained from my childhood. But I found great comfort in the Word of God and prayer, and encouragement among the people of God.

And as I read, God's plan for my life became clearer to me. I read that "all have sinned" and "there is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:23,10). But I also read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9).

When I returned to school the next fall the same boy who had always mocked me because of my shyness approached me in the cafeteria. He noticed that I'd changed and demanded: "What happened to you over the summer? You're so different!" he said.

I told him about God's love for me and about his mercy, how I had found purpose and meaning for my life. And this same boy who had so enjoyed making me cry was now nearly in tears himself as he told me about his own family problems.

It wasn't easy for me, however. Even though I was only 16, my dad kicked me out of the house when he found out about my newfound faith. But I discovered in the family of God a love and acceptance I never knew as a child.

It's been 17 years since I gave my life to Jesus Christ. No longer am I overcome with feelings of being forgotten and alone. God has given me a new security and stability. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isaiah 49:15). I have a friend in Jesus Christ, someone I can always talk to and with whom I can be myself.

Knowing that God loves and accepts me as I am has also given me new confidence and self-acceptance. He valued my life so much (a life I was ready to throw away) that He sent His Son to die in my place. The inferiority I felt so strongly as a child is now gone, replaced by a sense of self-worth.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

-Diane Dew