My stomach twisted into knots when I rounded the corner and spotted Nathan* and Rob standing in front of my locker. I had prayed this wouldn't happen, but for the sixth day in a row, there they were—waiting to make fun of me.
I considered going to algebra class without my book, but what was I supposed to tell my teacher? That I couldn't get into my locker because I was scared of the two guys blocking it? So I kept walking toward Rob and Nathan, all the while staring down at my feet, hoping that if I avoided eye contact, they'd leave me alone. No such luck.
"Well, look who's here!" Rob said. "Life's biggest loser."
"What's up, stupid?" Nathan sneered as he jabbed me in the side, causing my notebook to fly out of my hands and skid across the floor.
Rob laughed as he slapped me hard on the back.
I winced and bit my upper lip to try and hide the pain. I then motioned toward my locker and muttered, "I just need to get a book."
Nathan grinned, crossed his arms, and leaned against my locker.
"Whaddaya think?" he asked Rob. "Should I step aside for nerd boy?"
I just stood there, feeling helpless and alone. As far as I knew, I hadn't done anything to make Rob and Nathan hate me so much. But for the past couple of weeks, I'd become their easy target.
The bell rang and I darted for class—with my algebra book still in my locker.
That night I went to a youth group meeting and decided to tell my friend Lindsay what had been happening.
"What's with those guys?" she asked. "Are they jealous of your grades or something?"
"I have no idea what their deal is, but I'm sick of it," I said. "I've gotta find a way to get them off my back."
Lindsay suggested talking to a teacher, the principal or a guidance counselor, but I really wanted to handle this on my own.
"Maybe you should just ignore them," Lindsay suggested. "Eventually they'll get tired of ripping on you."
"That's the type of advice my mom would give," I said, rolling my eyes.
Lindsay then gave me a gentle smile and reminded me that God was in control even if I couldn't see it. She said that maybe the Lord was using me to bring God's love to those two guys. I wasn't convinced. Even so, I knew something needed to change. I also knew I needed to trust God to get me through this.
The next day, I got my chance when I was greeted at my locker with the familiar loser lingo. As I thought about what Lindsay had said, I felt a little calmer than I had the day before. Instead of staring at the floor, I smiled, looked them in the eyes, and said, "Hey, what's up?" They both looked at me funny. I'm sure they wondered why I wasn't avoiding their eyes or struggling over what to say. It seemed I'd caught them off guard. To my surprise, they stepped out of the way and let me get to my locker.
Over the next few weeks, I continued the nice routine, even though it felt completely awkward. Then the weirdest thing happened: Nathan and Rob occasionally gave me a nod or a half grin when they passed me in the hallway. Although they didn't become my friends, they did stop bullying me.