I made it, but my father didn’t.
I was in my mom’s womb trying to grow when the doctors saw that I was having trouble. “Failure to thrive” was written on my chart and there was concern. Ultimately, I was born a month and a half early at 2 pounds, 6 ounces, but my father was long gone by then. He didn’t want to have anything to do with a deformed kid.
The reason for concern was Russell-Silver Syndrome, a disorder that afflicts babies with low growth, low birth weight and short height. In other words, I’m small.
My bones are thin, my voice is weak and my eyes are unusual. I’m the size of a fourth-grader. But here’s the thing—at 20 years old, I’m 4’10”, 65 pounds and as big as I’m ever going to get.
You might think life would be tough for someone my size and while you may be right, it is nothing compared to what life was like as a little boy, a really little boy.
From my earliest memory, I always felt like a moth; always flittering around hoping to be liked and accepted and not swatted away. I tried to do everything the other boys did. When they roughhoused, I did too. I would be getting squished or trampled but I hung in there. I had to. I had to earn my friendships. Getting demolished then getting back up was the surest way I knew to earn respect. Bruises and all.
I always felt like a moth; always flittering around hoping to be liked and accepted and not swatted away.
But no matter how much acceptance I got from the guys, there was a constant consciousness, even at eight years old, that I wasn’t like everybody else. I was fighting an unwinnable battle. I was trying to wipe away the truth. I was trying to convince others that there was nothing different about me, when, of course, all you had to do was look at me.
When I think back, the pressure was unbearable.
When everyone went out to play basketball, it was torture. We played a shooting game and when the ball went to me, I couldn’t even hit the rim on a lowered basket. They said, “Okay if Jaim hits the net, we’ll call it a score.” So I kept smiling and playing, but it hurt me deeply. When I hit the net, they cheered. They might as well have sneered. It hurt all the same. All the kids could make baskets. I was the outcast. I cursed my body.
One day while riding the bus home, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was the last one and broke down and cried. The bus driver noticed me and came over to me and put her arm around my tiny shoulders. “You just keep trying, no matter what it is,” she said. “I can see that you’re a strong boy.”
Her kindness meant so much. It helped to make me determined to accomplish all the things that nobody thought I could. In some ways, however, it kept me believing that I could one day overcome all of the ways I was different. And my biggest challenge was just ahead.
Puberty brought a deep need to be liked by girls. I thought If I dressed cool, it might do the trick. The skateboarder look seemed to suit me so I did that. The girls didn’t seem to care. So I tried the gangsta look. It didn’t work. Over the next years, I nearly broke the bank buying clothes from all the different styles. It was a dismal failure.
Meanwhile, the boys kept getting taller and more muscular. Even the girls were towering over me. I would look up and see them staring at the other boys lovingly and giving them attention. Once again, I was the desperate moth pleading for someone to see me.
I had failed. A pretty girl would not look me in the eyes and hold my hand in hers. I asked God again, Why did you make me this way? What good does it do?
I got depressed. There was hopelessness in my life. Is this all I’ll ever be—small? Does this mean my life will be small too?
This guy I met asked if I wanted to go to a party. He was going to pick me up. So I waited. And waited. As I sat there, I felt the silliness of my life. Me, in my silent house, dressed in some ridiculous get-up, sitting on my couch with my feet unable to reach the carpet. Waiting for what? A chance to go to a party and feel like a freak?
When I realized he wasn’t coming. I fell to my knees. When I was a kid, I told God I wanted to be His, but this was different. I told God I needed Him in a way that I didn’t even recognize. “Take all of me, Lord,” I cried. “Make something with my life because I can’t. I’m yours. You’re my only hope.”
“Take all of me, Lord,” I cried. “Make something with my life because I can’t. I’m yours. You’re my only hope.”
When I stood up, I felt different. I knew my body hadn’t grown, but something inside me had. I began to take God seriously when He said He wants a relationship with me. So I spent time with Him every day. I long to read His Word and pray. He has rewarded me with a hunger for more.
By the grace of God, all of my painful self-perceptions have been replaced with an ever-growing sense that I’m made perfectly for God’s holy purpose.
I feel so hopeful because I feel so loved. To me, I have been taken by the hand and my eyes have been longingly looked into. I have been claimed. I have been asked to the prom of God’s heart and crowned homecoming king.
I now speak to youth groups and it is wonderful to see how God makes my voice powerful—as soon as everyone sees me, their mouths drop open. You can hear a pin drop.
The result? Kids hear about a God that can build a giant inside someone like me.
Today, I love the way I am. I used to think the best I could do would be to endure life with my condition. But now I like to look in the mirror because it’s me—the same me that God chose to have so much influence over young people and bring such hope.
Each day I learn more about how Jesus withstood the pain of the cross just to bring me to Him. All of that love is alive inside of me.
And there’s nothing small about that.