Option 5

by Tim Shoemaker

I fingered the jagged cuts crisscrossing my vinyl bicycle seat. A large rock with a sharp edge lay near the bike rack. It could’ve done the job. No question who did it. His bike was locked right next to mine—Steve Schleming.

Noah leaned against the rack, his back to our school.

This is why you need to fill a wiffle ball bat with gravel and strap it to your bike.”

“What? So I can shake it at him?”

Noah shrugged. “Maybe.”

Not exactly the Christian thing to do.

“You have to do something,” Noah added.

Didn’t I know it.

I’d tried some things. My parents knew about Steve. I’d talked to a teacher, too. She said Steve’s parents would be called, but the school needed more evidence before it could take serious action.

Noah and I hustled inside and scrambled to our desks just as the bell rang.

Class started, but I kept thinking about my bike.

Miss Hoskins droned on about something. Honestly, I tried to listen, but I couldn’t get my mind off of Steve.

Why did he pick me as his target? I wondered. How could I make him stop?

That was the real question.

“Brandan?”

Miss Hoskins stared at me. “What was I just talking about?”

She stepped closer. I felt my cheeks getting warm.

“I’m waiting for an answer.”

I glanced past her at Noah. He motioned as if swinging an invisible bat.

“Ah, a bat?”

“What kind of bat?”

Noah bared his teeth and clawed the air. It looked like he was impersonating Steve Schleming ripping my bike seat.

“A wiffle ball bat . . . filled with gravel,” I said.

The room exploded with laughter.

Miss Hoskin’s eyes narrowed. She turned toward the other students. “Who can help Brandan out?”

Eager hands shot up all over the room.

“A vampire bat.” Noah blurted it out, like he couldn’t believe I didn’t get it.

Miss Hoskins smiled at him. I slunk a little lower in my seat.


Look at the Options

The instant the bell rang I raced to my locker, grabbed my lunch and headed to the cafeteria.

Noah already sat at our table. Addison sat across from him. By her look I figured she’d already heard about my bike.

She crossed her arms. “So what are you going to do?”

“Duct tape. I can’t afford a new seat.”

Addison shook her head. “I’m talking about Steve Schleming.”

“No idea.” Actually, I had one idea, but it seemed risky.

“You’ve got to tell the office,” she said.

“They’ll want more evidence, and Steve’s good at acting nice around teachers.”

Addison leaned forward. “If you don’t stop this bully, he’ll keep doing things like this and worse.”

My fear . . . exactly.

“Listen,” Noah said, “there are three ways to handle bullies.”

He held up one finger. “Ignore them. Hope they go away—but you’ve tried that.”

For weeks. It seemed to fuel Schleming. Like he took it as a challenge.

Noah held up a second finger. “Report him to the school, or to your mom or somebody else who can make him stop.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Addison said.

“I’ve done that already, and until it gets worse I feel like I can’t go back again,” I said.

“Option three. Wiffle ball bat.”

“What?” Addison looked at me, then back at Noah.

“We fill it with gravel,” Noah said with a smile. “Then Brandan carries it around with him and—”

“And what?” Addison interrupted. “Hits him?”

Noah shrugged. Sometimes Noah took his jokes too far.

Addison clenched her jaw. Obviously she wasn’t buying this.

“Look,” he said, “Brandan doesn’t have to hit him with the bat. Just shaking it at him with the gravel inside will make enough noise to scare him good.”

“Oh, I get it.” Addison nodded. “You bully him back. Threaten him.”

Noah grinned. “Exactly.”

She looked at me. “But you’re a Christian.”

“Addison, I’m not going to fill a bat with gravel,” I said. “But I’m running out of options.”

“Option four,” Addison perked up. “Transfer to a different school. But I’d fill a bat with gravel myself before I’d let you do that.”

Noah and I both laughed. It died down quickly. I thanked God for my friends, but I was starting to dread coming to school.

Noah stacked empty milk cartons onto his tray. “You can’t let Schleming keep bullying you. Because if you do, then I think I’d rather see you move.”

“There’s another option,” I said. “Option five.”

Both of them looked at me—expecting me to explain, but I couldn’t. Not yet. I felt shaky enough about the idea myself.

“I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”

I needed to convince myself option five was really the way to go—and figure out how I’d actually pull it off.


Love Your Enemy

That night I kept thinking about what to do. I am a Christian. And the Bible seemed clear about the option I should take. Some verses rolled around in my mind. My Bible had a section in the back where it listed verses containing certain words. The word I looked up? Enemy.

I biked to school the next morning with the verses written on index cards in my back pocket.

At lunchtime both Noah and Addison met me at our usual table.

“So,” Noah said, “what’s option five?”

I took a deep breath and let it out. “It’s straight from the Bible.”

Noah’s face brightened.

“Yes!” He leaned in. “An eye for an eye, right?”

I pulled the index cards out of my back pocket and spread them on the table. “This is more what I had in mind.”

Both Noah and Addison picked up cards and read silently. Addison nodded and a smile crept across her face.

Noah didn’t look happy. “This is crazy.”

“Exactly why I didn’t tell you yesterday,” I said. “I needed to think it through.”

“I like it,” Addison said. She looked at her card. “ ‘If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,’ Proverbs 25:21.”

She picked up another card. “ ’When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him,’ Proverbs 16:7.”

Addison looked at Noah. “Are you going to read that card?”

Noah sighed. “ ‘But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,’ Luke 6:27 and 28.” He tossed the card on the table. “Sounds wimpy.”

“Wimpy?” Addison snorted. “Praying for Steve Schleming takes more guts than going after him with a bat.”

Noah’s face got red. “Yeah? Well, a wiffle ball bat sounds a lot scarier.”

Addison arranged the cards in a neat row. “So you’re going to do good things for Steve. Maybe even pray for him?”

“Already started praying last night.”

Noah stood. “You’d better start praying right now. Look who’s coming.”

Steve Schleming, tray in hand, sauntered directly toward us.

Great. My stomach twisted.

Noah tossed the card onto the table and grabbed his tray. “I’m outta here.”

Schleming shouldered Noah as he passed and set his tray in Noah’s place.

“Saw the duct tape on your bike,” he said. “You trying to start a new look—or did your seat get an owie?”

Another game. OK, God, guide me. Give me the courage to do this. I started to scoop up the cards—hoping Steve didn’t notice my hands shaking.

Steve snatched Noah’s card from my hand and sneered. “Going over your Sunday school lesson, loser?”

My knee started bouncing under the table. “Actually, I wrote those for you.”

“What?”

“Well, not for you, exactly, but because of you. I started praying for you last night.”

He eyed me. “Praying—for me?”

Immediately, I got the sense that I needed to pray for him now. That wasn’t part of my plan—but the feeling was so strong. I realized something deep inside Steve must hurt an awful lot, and that’s why he hurt others. I could hardly swallow.

“Yeah,” I said, “and since you’re here, I’m going to pray with you.”

Steve’s mouth opened slightly. Before he could speak, I bowed my head.

“God, Steve Schleming and I are enemies for some crazy reason, but I pray You’ll help us, especially me, to treat each other like friends. I’ve really been messing up on that.” My mouth felt dry. “And help Steve know You love him. Amen.”

My leg was really hopping now. Addison wiped her eyes. I looked at Steve. His eyes darted back and forth like he wanted to make sure nobody had seen what happened.

“OK—that’s kind of creepy.” He stood to leave.

“I didn’t mean it to be,” I said. “I’m going to pray good things for you—and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Steve stood there, tray in hand, like he was trying to figure out what to say next. “Funny way to treat an enemy.” He laughed, but it sounded fake. “I could use more enemies like that.”

Addison stood. “Imagine what it would be like if you treated Brandan like a friend.”

The corner of his mouth turned up just a bit and he nodded. He dropped the card on the table, and without another word, turned and walked away.

I wanted to call him back—to talk to him. I shot a quick prayer of thanks to God. Option five should have been my option one all along. I could see that now.

Addison picked up the card, traced her finger around it and smiled. “I think you just hit a home run.”

I smiled back. She was right. And I didn’t even need a bat.

 

Bully Blasting

Bullying takes many forms. Sometimes it’s physical, like fighting or damaging property. Name-calling and verbal bullying can hurt just as much. In recent years, cyber bullying has emerged, with kids writing nasty text messages or Facebook posts.

If you’re a target of any type of bullying or if you know somebody who is being bullied, tell your parents right away. They may want to involve the school or the bully’s parents. And remember to pray. God can help you through any situation. He can even change the bully’s heart.

This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Tim Shoemaker.