I definitely remember using Cliff’s Notes in high school. That was back in the late 80’s when we still used the card catalog to find a book in the library.
In today’s society, a quick internet search will tell you my title quote is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything from my literature classes about Shakespeare (I am so sorry, Mrs. Shaw).
I do remember facing a moment (several, actually) when I had to decide to be, or not to be.
Let’s take the DeLorean back to Greenpond, AL., in 1988.
When I was in 8th grade, I walked along the railroad tracks behind my mom’s house with her pistol in my hand. I was debating how to end my life. Train or gun?
Why? My name was all over the bathroom stalls at my high school.
Ugly, gross pen scribblings that labeled me as accused, judged, guilty and dirty.
I wondered that day if anyone would feel bad when they heard about my death. I wanted them to feel guilty.
I read a quote once that said, “People who consider suicide don’t really want to die…they just want to escape the pain.”
My friends had passed notes in class asking me what it was about. Honestly, I didn’t even know what some of the words and phrases meant that were written about me.
This has been true most of my life. When I was in elementary school, an older boy on our K-12 bus asked me if I had woken up with a pearl necklace around my neck, and then cracked up laughing with his friends at my dumbstruck expression.
This was before I moved to that house in Greenpond. This happened when I lived with my grandparents and I caught the bus from the side of Highway 5 in Woodstock, AL., after walking a half mile down their magical, tree-lined gravel driveway.
I might have been 8 or 9.
I ate Spaghetti-O’s and watched Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch after school.
However, the prince of this world was ready to pounce and I was completely unprepared.
At age 14, when I walked around the square hallways of our high school building, it seemed like the walls were closing in around me. I was convinced everyone was staring at me.
All talking about what was written on the walls. Or, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were just taking about homework or who was riding through Main Street after school.
It was just a handful of girls being mean. At the time, my teenage brain could not see through the cloud of despair to know that it wasn’t as big as it felt. It was not the end of the world.
I did not really know a life outside of my small-town high school that nicknamed its football field, Kudzu Kingdom.
I did not know that I was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139) or that I was God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) created to do great works for which He had prepared for me long ago.
No one ever explained how I belonged to a Heavenly Father and I was bought for a price…the price of precious blood from a spotless Lamb.
I did not know that I did NOT have to believe or accept what they wrote or said.
No one ever discipled me to read the Bible or memorize scripture. There was no recalling Philippians 4:6-8 when I was upset.
There were no Psalms to recite or promises to give me strength.
God’s Word was not hidden in my heart to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Looking back, I think we live in a bubble when we are young and that is why the smallest things can be so devastating in middle and high school.
In my case, I went from a K-6 building where I helped make bulletin boards…to high school where guys had full beards.
Maybe Taylor Swift can write a song about when you’re 12 and in the 7th grade with grown men of 18-19 who call you fresh meat and try to put their hand up your denim skirt on the bus or at a school dance.
It’s so weird…where were the adults? Lol. I have so few memories of adult faces during that time.
Yes, I wanted to make those people pay for lying, distorting the truth, and for being just absolutely cruel – by leaving behind a note pointing out it was their fault.
You did this.
I will never understand why I lived through so many downcast times and dangerous situations (okay, maybe I do), and I don’t even remember what kept me going. It wouldn’t be until I was 26 when I really discoveres the love of Christ and completely surrendered my life to Him.
I have to imagine it was a praying grandmother on her knees somewhere, crying out to God to protect her grandchildren. There’s really no other explanation. I certainly did nothing to help myself and no one ever talked to me about my issues.
My plan? I ran away.
I didn’t go far and there wasn’t a search party or helicopters, or anguished, remorseful faces from those at school. My plan was actually quite terrible as a friend and I headed off with $12 in change and some sour cream and onion chips from Autwell’s.
We got scared by midnight as we tried to “camp” at Holiday Beach. We ended up using a pay phone at West Automotive gas station to call whatever family member we thought wouldn’t beat us.
I called my grandmother.
Rumors and gossip are like fiery arrows to the soul, piercing a heart already broken, that causes an actual catch in your chest…a momentary shortness of breath. It is like a wave that continues to crash over you like you’re unable to surface in the water.
I couldn’t breathe.
I did not know my battle was not with flesh and blood, but with the dark forces and principalities of this present darkness in the Spirit realm (Ephesians 6).
How in the world do we expect kids to make it through feelings like this when words have moved from the bathroom walls to a virtual screen in front of thousands. Instantly.
Who tells them about the available armor?
Who shows them the truth in God’s Word?
Who bends down to take their hand and pray?
Who reinforces and models the power of scripture?
Who intercedes, face down on the floor, sobbing with tears on the behalf of a broken girl?
We need warriors of faith.
Our kids are losing the spiritual battle at life-threatening levels. Where there is the absence of spiritual life, the greater the risk of physical death.
Those mean girls (and boys) are certainly still out there. I’ve talked to many teenagers dealing with situations that feel like the end of the world.
I can relate to their feelings, but I grieve at how the enemy has deceived them emotionally, mentally and spiritually, using attacks from other people to wear them down.
Who gave that girl power to speak discouragement over your life?
By what authority can they decide who you are?
They have no power or authority except what we allow them to have.
If we take the Most High God down from first place, and then choose to elevate some random person as the speaker of truth in our life, then we have completely fallen for the father of lies.
You see, to escape the Upside Down…a world of dark, shadowy buildings where your thoughts whisper no escape, depression and death – there is only one absolute method of combat – and we aren’t using it.
Yes, I totally believe in and encourage counseling and therapy, but if it is not also partnered with the spiritual needs, then I don’t know if someone ever completely heals.
They make it day to day, but they aren’t living in freedom.
The chains remain because they do not go to the One who has the key.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive (2 Corinthians 10).
The answer, for those who have made it this far, is…TO BE.
To be a child of God. To fight for others. To be more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. To lead as many as we can away from the darkness and into His glorious light.
TO BE…for the glory and kingdom of God, so the enemy does not snatch away any more.
Who is willing to spiritually battle for them?
Who is in the War Room of prayer?
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I know the Bible is my one offensive weapon – a sword. It’s the sword of the Spirit and it is the only source of truth for our turbulent minds.
There’s a reason the Bible says to take every thought captive. You can’t believe everything you hear or even think because the human heart is deceitful above all things.
Sweet girl, you cannot follow your heart or even your feelings. They will mislead you every time.
You must discover the Savior of this world.
You must be broken in surrender before Him.
You must walk with Him, read His letters to you, pray for understanding and trust in His timing.
You must choose to daily live out Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 2:20 and Acts 20:24.
You must prepare for The Journey Ahead.
Jeremy Simpson and Keysha Simpson
Brother and Sister
West Blocton High School
Updated and reposted 09.10.19, following two devastating suicides.