g Dikkon Eberhart
I hated that guy Clay.
He was thirteen. I was twelve. Each year, I was the youngest kid in the class. Not only was Clay thirteen, his two henchmen were thirteen.
It wasn’t just me who Clay bullied. He intimidated other seventh-graders. It was the sneering, that’s what it was. And it was the humiliation of his henchmen tormenting me, too.
There wasn’t any theme to Clay’s torment. It wasn’t that he was after my lunch money. It was that he was after me. Didn’t matter what it was about me he hated. Whatever he hated, he made me cringe.
I hated to cringe.
Dad had taken me aside one time, and he had explained about bullies. What you do about bullies is you fight them back. And you fight to win. At the time Dad explained about bullies, I thought, “Okay for you. You’re bigger than Clay.”
What was I to do? I just wanted to be left alone.
The humiliating thing about cringing at Clay is that Clay made me feel that I had done something wrong. He made me feel like I deserved the hatred he handed out.
His henchmen thought I deserved it, too. Some others in the class thought so, and they were supposed to be my friends. Semi-friends.
The problem got worse and worse. I was running out of different ways to walk home from school.
What I needed was someone to back me up.
What I needed was someone standing behind me who was bigger and stronger than me. Someone who understood what I was going through.
I knew Dad understood what I was going through, but also I knew he wanted me to fix my Clay problem myself because he had told me how. Late at night I would lie in bed and know I was scared to try and fix it myself. I didn’t want to confess I was scared to Dad. He wasn’t scared of anything, Dad wasn’t. But it would be good if someone who was really important understood that I was scared.
Not that I wouldn’t try to fix it. I’d try almost anything if I knew that I could count on that kind of someone to understand what I was going through and to help me by letting me know that whatever happened, I was safe.
I don’t mean safe from being beaten up by Clay, which is what Clay always told me he would do. No, I mean safe in the way I knew I was safe when I was younger and Dad and I were out in the boat and the waves were really big on the ocean and the spray was coming over and we were getting wet and the water was cold and my stomach hurt (just a little) and Dad was grinning and his eyes were dancing at me and I knew—I just knew—that everything in the whole wide world was absolutely perfect and, whatever happened, it was just exactly what was supposed to happen…and so I was safe.
If I could feel safe that way, I wouldn’t care if Clay beat me up. And anyway maybe I could beat him up instead. Dad said that when you are in the right—that’s what he said—when you are in the right, then you have strength like a knight in armor.
It would take a big thing for me to feel safe that way but even knowing that I could feel safe that way, and that I had felt safe that way, made me feel safe that way right now.
Right now – with CLAY COMING AT ME WITH HIS MEN!
A minute later, I didn’t really remember what happened. I could feel how strong my muscles were—like a knight’s. I could feel blood surging through me. I could feel my knuckles smart with pain.
I had I won.
Clay was the one with the bloody nose. His men led him away. He never came near me again.
Fifty-eight years passed. My fists, arms, and shoulders can feel that moment still.
During my adult years, there have been many times when I longed for that sense of utter safety, no matter what the outcome, just as I longed for it when I was twelve.
Now, at seventy, I have mastered many things since I was twelve, things that I would not even have dreamed of trying to master back then. My strength has gained elegant language with which I can describe it. That said, my weaknesses, too, are enhanced. They are more subtle than they were back then. The pain I sometimes inflict on others whom I love penetrates to their hearts and to mine also.
On the other hand, my love of the heavenly sacrifice that produces my strength is profound. My belief in Divine, personal, and sacrificial love, as it is directed toward me, is that it has the power to make my strength purer and my weaknesses shy.
Because it gave of Itself to save.
To all Christian brothers and sisters, may you enjoy a blessed Easter.