At first I was annoyed. After all, I had come to the showroom of the car dealership to wait for my car to be serviced, rather than remaining in the waiting room, because it was usually quiet here. That day, however, the TV was on, and I couldn’t escape its noise. I tried to ignore the “Today” show as I read, first the rest of my Bible passages for the day and then a book I plan to review.
Finally, however, I could keep out the sound no longer, and something – Someone? – within prompted me to get up, go over, and listen more carefully. They were talking about bullying at school, a topic which I thought had no relevance to me. Furthermore, it was all about girls and their mothers, and the “bullying” was no more than a few unkind words. No big deal.
Then it struck me: I had been bullied more than once. The private boys’ boarding school I attended was not for the faint of heart, unless you were one of the “neat” (i.e., cool) guys, which I most certainly was not. Only a couple of weeks into my first year, I was waiting for lunch outside the dining hall when, without warning, several second-year boys come up, grabbed me, and slammed me up against wall.
“You’d better get on the stick, Doyle,” they growled, “or something bad will happen to you.”
“What does ‘Get on the stick’ mean?” I asked, innocently, eliciting groans of utter contempt and disgust. I had not even comprehended their warning! (For my similarly uninformed readers, it meant something like, “Get with the program.”)
Then there was the time that a bunch of them went to my room, found some pretty ardent (and perfumed) love letters from my girlfriend, and read them aloud, to boisterous guffaws and howls of laughter. Until, that is, I burst in and punched out the guy doing the reading, after which I glared at them and said, “Who’s next?” Any one of them could have taken me out with ease, but I guess they didn't want to tangle with an enraged foe.
Chastened, they left me alone for a year or two, but in my senior year they were replaced by younger boys who deeply resented the strict way in which I – naively – enforced the rules as a hall monitor (proctor). First came the angry looks; then muttered curses, followed by a warning that a severe beating was not far away; and then a couple of credible death threats. (Yeah, I know, it sounds rather improbable, but I believed them.)
As you might imagine, living with such gathering clouds, and being openly pronounced in the year book and the final edition of the school paper (though in veiled code, lest they be disciplined) the most unpopular student in the entire school, had an impact on me. Though I put on a brave face, I was deeply hurt inside.
As a freshman in college, I was repeatedly invited, then commanded, to “wrestle” with my two roommates, who were both brawny athletes frustrated that they hadn’t won a scholarship to play at U.N.C. They seemed to take delight on piling on top of me after a short but futile struggle.
In seminary, several of my classmates and professors, not liking my evangelical views, sent multiple snide comments in my direction, and one teacher even reduced my grade.
I am not sure I have ever really dealt with these experiences, but that day in the car showroom it suddenly occurred to me that, yes, I had been bullied.
I asked the lanky man African-American man sprawled in the chair in front of the TV, “Were you ever bullied?”
“Oh, yeah,” he replied.
“But you are big and strong; I was always a little guy.” Then I reflected that he must have been smaller as a boy, and weak enough for the big kids to prey upon.
Walking back to my books, I pondered all this for a moment. Then it hit me.
Jesus was bullied, too.
The hostile questions came first; then the angry accusations; what we might call ‘hate” speech; plots to eradicate him; and finally real physical bullying, culminating in the horrors of the Cross.
I returned to the man near the TV.
“I just realized that Jesus was bullied, too. He knows all about it.”
He just looked up and acknowledged my comment, but I walked away thinking that perhaps both he and I would go home with a new appreciation of what Jesus went through for us. I know I did.