Beauty from Ashes – Megan’s Story
High school was not the best of times for me. To be honest, I used to avoid even thinking about it. Sure, there are some precious memories from those years, but the hard parts always seemed to outweigh everything else. I was a thin and fragile girl and I struggled with mental health issues for a while. I can still remember standing in the middle of the cafeteria in the 10th grade and glancing over to see some girls pointing at me and whispering, ‘that’s her.’ They seemed to feel bad when they realized that I had heard them but that didn’t stop the sinking feeling in my heart. I know firsthand how mean girls can be to each other. I longed for some real friendships but high school was the last place that I would find them.
Fast-forward a few years and while I was attending College I began a relationship with Jesus Christ. I was now mentally and physically healthy and life was beginning to make sense. During my freshman year I was invited to become a part of a ministry called Young Life. Part of the program at Young Life involved spending time at a local high school and building friendships with the students. I was a little anxious about going back into the high school environment but I became downright terrified when I was told that I would be going into my old high school. I had been hearing over and over at Young Life, ‘God has a plan’ and ‘He can use you anywhere, you can do anything with Him’ but this was not what I had in mind. That cafeteria and those hallways held memories from my past that I did not want to revisit!
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
But then I read this verse and the accompanying study notes in my Bible, and something shifted. The ashes represent our broken dreams, our failures, our disappointments and our hurts. The key is that we have to let go of the ashes before we can receive the beauty. If we don’t let go of the old, we can’t receive the new.
Before entering the doors of my old high school I had to make the choice to let go of the old. I had to let go of the pain that I associated with that place. It was not easy but it was worth it. I see now that God knew this plan all along. Even while I walked those halls feeling hopeless and alone, He knew the beauty that was ahead of me. He knew the dreams, friendships, joy and purpose that were on the other side of my struggle. If only I could go back and tell my high school self that the God of the universe loves me and is authoring a story of restoration in my life. If only I could go back and tell my former self that the exact place where I experienced so much pain and challenge would become a platform where I would share about God’s love and grace.
I never imagined that six years later I would be able to say that being back at my old high school is one of my favourite places to be! Although I can’t go back in time and share these truths with my teenage self I can walk alongside Jesus and share the truth with teenage girls today. I now have the opportunity to be the friend to others, that I desperately wanted myself. I now share from a place of personal experience and revelation that God can truly bring light out of any dark situation and that nothing we give to Him is ever wasted. I am a living reminder that God gives us beauty for our ashes.