Surviving High School

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

I recently attended my 20-year high school reunion. It was a great time reconnecting with some old friends. Hopefully I will now be able to stay in touch with some of them.

It was cool to see how most everyone has grown up, at least a little bit. The popular people are now friendly towards everyone. The "nerds" are married to attractive women and are successful doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. There was very little bragging or self-promotion. Virtually everyone seemed genuinely pleased to see everyone else.

One thing the reunion definitely did is remind me of how difficult a time high school was for me. I was neither popular or shunned. I was pretty much "middle of the pack" in everything. For the most part, I was invisible, and I liked it that way. And then, two powerful events happened to me that dramatically impacted the rest of my life.

During my junior year, my father passed away from stomach cancer. It had been a long and painful six or so months since the diagnosis, so it was actually a relief to my family when he passed away. My father always stressed the importance of school and education, and one of his final wishes was that I would not miss any school once he died. I honored his request. I remember some friends and teachers questioning why I was in school so soon after he died. I just said "it was what he wanted" and left it at that.

But I was definitely not ready to be father-less at that time in my life. I had a loving mother and older sister who cared for me, but I still needed a dad. I definitely withdrew from the social aspect of high school as I struggled to deal with the loss of my father. I was seriously confused in regards to what my life was supposed to be about, and high school was not helping.

As painful an event as losing my dad was, it was definitely not the most transformative thing that happened to me.

During the summer between my junior and senior year, a friend of mine invited me to his church's youth group camping trip. He enticed me with the promise of pretty girls, and what 17-year-old male can resist that?!? It was a fun weekend. I made some new friends. But, the most important development was me meeting the youth pastor. I began attending the church fairly regularly, and the youth pastor began to disciple me. A few months after I began attending church is when I know for sure I understood the Gospel and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I had some background in the Christian faith as a young child, and I know others had shared the Gospel with me. But, I am not sure if I had ever truly or fully understood it until just around the start of my senior year in high school.

Talk about making your senior year of high school awkward! My youth pastor stressed the importance of separating myself from the friends who were occasional bad influences on me. I knew I needed to separate myself from "bad company" (1 Corinthians 15:33) and bad influences until I was spiritually mature enough to resist those temptations. But, that did not make it any easier. Starting an entirely different direction in life during my senior year of high school...was...painful.

I vividly remember almost crying when my youth pastor instructed me that my collection of hard rock / heavy metal music had to be thrown away. "Can't I at least keep one Def Leppard album?" I pleaded. The answer was no.

I survived my senior year of high school primarily by trying to make myself even more invisible. My youth group friends replaced my high school friends, for the most part. I stopped going to parties. The pretty girls in my youth group kept my attention away from the pretty girls in my high school.

And, during that time, God transformed me. I truly began to be "transformed by the renewing of my mind" (Romans 12:1-2). God took the good parts of my personality and improved them. God took the bad aspects of my life and helped me overcome them (and continues, to this day, to help me in my struggle to overcome them).

I really enjoyed my 20-year high school reunion. I hope some people noticed that I am indeed different, and in a good way. Whether or not anyone in my graduating class ever asks me about my faith, I want them to see that I genuinely care about them as people. I sincerely hope that I do not have to wait until the next reunion to have that opportunity.


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Published 7-24-13