“So, I was definitely the bully in middle school because I just had so many insecurities,” admits Zoe Zimmerman. Her unkindness and peoples’ reactions felt like “an easy fix” for her perceived needs. At the time, Zoe didn’t take God seriously.
She recalls an unfortunate incident with a classmate in third grade, well before her middle school era, that may have launched her desire to bully. “Oh, my word. Every time I’d say something, just out of pocket mean to him, he’d just say, ‘Zoe, I’m praying for you,’ but I sent him home crying.” To this day, Zoe marvels that the boy declared he was praying for her.
In sixth grade, Bully Zoe struck again. “This guy really smelled bad and we had just like joked about how bad he smelled,” so she and some co-conspirators sprayed air freshener, wore nurses’ masks and “made a grand ordeal about it.” That hurt some feelings? “Oh, yes, very much so.”
Zoe believes her insecurities just came with “middle school territory," a time of many changes that some kids have trouble coping with. And this kind of cruel behavior, in school and elsewhere - without Christ, “that’s what we’re all capable of.” She reminds herself, “Don’t invalidate people before God.”
During her middle school years, Zoe attended a Christian summer camp and met Jesus through carefully explained messages from the Bible. Something like Saul changing to Paul, as described in the Bible, Zoe underwent a spiritual change and heart realignment. The bully was downsized and on the way to being defeated.
Fast-forward to current times, Zoe, now a junior at Cedarville University, is reaching out to girls in middle school through the STARS mentorship program. It’s an after-school program at Xenia, Ohio, middle schools, where Zoe and others mentor 40-50 kids in a library setting. “We just go through a lesson. We talk. We talk about life. And there’s so many influences going on in their world, so it’s cool to just be able to dissect those things and ask the big questions like, ‘What does matter? What do you want your life to be about?’”
It’s not a bible study, per se, but faith is openly discussed and can point hearts to Christ.
Zoe’s plan is to become a middle school teacher, influenced by her own middle school era spiritual metamorphosis.
In our podcast just below, Zoe explains that back in middle school students started calling her a hypocrite because of her newfound faith. “It’s hard to change, especially when people have this idea of who you are.” She also shares how today’s girls face a “way more complicated world" because of social media. Zoe notes how one girl was convinced God is a woman. Zoe replied with a grin, “Okay, we have so many things to work through here.”
“But at the end of the day, these are the symptoms of heart issues,” adding, “There’s so many layers to unpack there.” And Zoe is more than willing… and patient.