“Encouraging Words Today” September 22, 2010
WHY I LEFT HIGH SCHOOL….AND CAME BACK
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
High School is hard. It was hard for me in the 1960’s and it’s hard today. This morning I stood by the flagpole and prayed with a small gathering of students and faculty observing “Meet Me at the Pole” prayer day. My prayers were that God would reach into this place with His Help and His Hope. I prayed this daily until all 4 of my own children graduated from this school. Then I came back to high school as a substitute teacher. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
I never thought I’d willingly return to high school. Truth is, I had left after my junior year and never looked back…
So yeah, I have university and masters degrees but never a high school graduation. Everyone thought I was crazy to deliberately miss my senior year but frankly, I was relieved to move on and start fresh several states away.
High school was not my most shining moment. While awkwardly trying to figure out exactly who I was (and not be defined by everyone else’s expectations or assumptions) I felt increasingly out-of-place amongst my peers, or (as I recalled in my book Role of a Lifetime) “a nonconformist in a sea of sameness.” While that may or may not have actually been true, it was my perception of the truth at that time. Mostly I felt really lonely. I lived Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” and listened to Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” and “Sounds of Silence.” That should tell you something…
To this day, I recall God’s clear guidance, provision, and confirmation to me about leaving high school early — a process which included many small miracles. As radical as it was at that time, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that going to Furman University at barely 17 was going to change my life. I would either have to grow up real fast on my own or I would fail miserably. It was probably my first real leap of faith — but certainly not my last.
Perhaps that’s why my heart is tender towards high schoolers. It’s such a pivotal time and they are up against a myriad of choices designed to entice and entreat them to follow one way or another. Every day as I do my small part teaching or encouraging, I pray that God’s love, compassion, hope, mercy, truth and grace would descend on each one and bring perspective, purpose and perseverance.
I’ve never been to a high school reunion. Because I wasn’t really part of any graduating class my name isn’t on any rosters so I’ve never been invited. Though I left in 1970, mine is really the Class of 1971 – and they’re planning a 40th reunion next summer. This t ime I heard about it and invited myself.
I am absolutely going to that reunion! I need to do this. I want (I think) to do this. It’s all part of my Life Story and therefore continuing to unfold. I suspect it won’t be dramatic at all. It may be even be comfortable. I know who I am now, and who I’m not. God has been so faithful to me for many years.
I pray the same for my students today.
“You got me when I was an unformed youth,
God, and taught me everything I know.
Now I’m telling the world your wonders;
I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray.
God, don’t walk off and leave me until I get out the news
Of your strong right arm to this world,
news of your power to the world yet to come,
Your famous and righteous ways, O God.
God, you’ve done it all! Who is quite like you?”
Psalm 71.17-19 MSG
Under the mercy, CINDY
©2010 Lucinda Secrest McDowell