And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32
His name was Richard Jackson and I hated him. I know, I know…hate is a strong word, and you aren’t supposed to hate someone or anyone. But lying is wrong too and the truth is…I hated him. Besides all that I was in the eighth grade, so it was a long time ago and it was also before I decided to follow Jesus. I’ve wanted to write this story before, but I’ve always put it off…until today.
Anyone who knows anything can tell you that junior high, or middle school as they call it now, can be difficult…and mine was. I never was in the cool crowd at school…I just didn’t make the cut. And add to that I was a little too short and a little too pudgy and I guess that just made me a target. Richard Jackson wasn’t in the cool group either he was in that nether land where people go who aren’t really nerdy but aren’t cool either. In another world, Richard Jackson would be a target like me…but he wasn’t.
Richard Jackson wasn’t a target because he was the one who targeted others. By a twist of fate, he was big, real big. I’m not sure if he was big because of his DNA or the fact that he probably spent too many years in the eighth grade. Regardless, he was big and for whatever reason, when he looked for someone to push around and bully, he found me. We didn’t share classes, we didn’t live in the same neighborhood, and we sure didn’t go to the same church. Come to think about it, I’m sure Richard Jackson didn’t go to church.
Anyway, Richard Jackson, for most of my eighth-grade year made it his business to make me miserable. He would push and shove and threaten me almost daily. To make matters worse, Richard Jackson had a lackey who would hang around him. If Richard Jackson was big, Mark Williams wasn’t. He was skinny, almost scrawny, but all that didn’t matter because he belonged to Richard Jackson. Well, Richard Jackson decided that Mark Williams should beat me up and one day he said just that. He promised to ride my bus and get off at my stop and pummel me. That was a long day as I waited all day to get beat up.
Well, I got on the bus, they got on the bus and when it came to my bus stop…we all got off. Richard Jackson instantly started in on me and at the same time encouraging his lackey to hit me. Well, he did, square on the mouth and then we took to the ground and wrestled around a bit before it was all over. Well, every day for months I would take my tongue and feel the large knot on my lip. Every day for months I relived those few moments trying to make the outcome different. It never was. To this day, I hate that day.
I think, though I am not sure, that soon after this Richard Jackson lightened up some. In fact, by the time high school rolled around he was almost civil. His lackey Mark Williams went somewhere…maybe parole school for all I know. All I know is for a long time I allowed that day to define me. For a long time, I allowed the fear of another bully showing up to cause me to live in fear. And then finally, slowly, the fear disappeared but the scar remained.
As I write this, I still can feel the emotional pain that Richard Jackson and Mark Williams inflicted on me. And, honestly, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to hate them all over again but then I realize that wouldn’t accomplish anything. I’ve given them enough free rent in my brain already. Besides all that since those days I had another important day—I met a Man who loved me enough to die for me. I met a man who forgave me of everything I had ever done wrong. I met a man who said since I have forgiven you don’t you think you should forgive him…forgive them. And I realized He was right. If I didn’t, I was no better than they were.
Is there a Richard Jackson or a Mark Williams in your past…for present? Is there a scar on your heart the size of Texas because someone decided to put it there? Maybe just maybe it is time to let it go. Maybe it is time to forgive. As I wrote this, I was amazed at the emotion that still lingers in my heart and in my memories and I realized this forgiveness thing isn’t as easy as it seems. But that’s ok because the One who asked me to forgive stands ready to help me to forgive. He stands there ready to help, whispering, “It’s ok, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne