Exactly a week ago this was the facial expression I was using on a young boy & his brother. A couple of little boys that I had never met before were making me more angry than I have been in a very long while.
It was about 8 p.m. & I was at the local middle school track. It's a place I love to go to get my miles in. It's nicely maintained & usually there are quite a few people around walking, running, playing tennis or basketball; it feels safe. The evening was just like countless others that I have spent at the track. It was a little hot & humid but the sun was lowering just enough to make it bearable. There were two men walking together, another girl running by herself, a man running by himself, & a couple walking together. I felt like it was a busy night at the track but that doesn't bother me at all. I got my warm up laps in, stretched a little & settled into my pace for a two mile run.
As I came up to the top of lap three I noticed two boys, probably about 11 or 12 years old, ride into the track fence on their bikes. I don't know why, but immediately I wondered if there was going to be trouble. They ditched their bikes in the corner & flopped down on the grass. I rounded the top of the track & headed back down the straightaway. Several seconds later I felt a hard *thwack* on my backside. I yelped in surprise & stopped in my tracks. Sure enough there was one of those little guys on his bike zooming away from me, the other right behind him. I kind of laughed & commented, "You guys are funny!" & thought that was the end of that. Until on my next lap I felt another *thwack*. At this point I am no longer laughing. I fixed the boy with a hard stare & told him to STOP TOUCHING ME. He laughed, mocked, & started cursing at me. At this point, I am shaking with anger, frustration, embarrassment, a whole host of awful feelings. I turned my ipod off & removed my ear buds. I was determined that he wasn't going to be able to sneak up on me & hit me again. So we played the dodge 'em game for four more running laps & two walking laps. This whole time he mocked & cursed at me & threatened to knock me over & kick my head in. Mostly I ignored him. I just was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to do. Quite literally I kept praying, "Jesus, if You were here what would You DO?" I thought about going to my car, getting my cell phone & calling the police. But I knew they would ride away before the police got there. I wondered why my distress wasn't igniting any kind of response from the other people there at the track. Not one person offered any kind of help or intervention. There were four men there who totally ignored my plight. That made me very sad. The whole thing made me feel like I was back in fifth grade again, getting made fun of for being a chub-a-lump. I didn't do anything as a child; as an adult I was doing nothing again.
I was quite determined to stay at the track for my whole run. I managed to get my miles in & then I headed home. As I drove my anger dissolved into tears. I just felt helpless & intimidated. Somehow I had the illusion that being an adult insulated you from experiencing that same old playground bullying junk. Obviously not.
Maybe I overreacted, but the whole scenario played through my mind quite a bit in the following days. What should I have done? How could I have handled it better? I went around asking family, friends, & coworkers what they would have done. Ultimately, I asked the Lord why He allowed it & what was I supposed to learn from it?
I'm not sure I have many answers for all of my inquiries. The main consensus from the family, friends, & coworkers was to have my phone with me at all times & call the police immediately. Several of the guys said I should have knocked him off his bike. I wish I could have done it (isn't that awful of me?). But I'm no fighter. I tend to roll up like a potato bug at the first sign of trouble. Try to be invisible is my motto.
I know the Lord allows things in our lives for very specific reasons. I think maybe part of the reason for this happening in my life is to remind me of how rotten we all can be. Part of our sin nature is to be mean, ugly, & to bully. These boys are no worse than I am. They deserve the compassion & love of Christ just as much as I do. I just kept thinking how could they not know better than to act like that? how do they get the nerve to harass a stranger like that? And the only answer I feel sure of is that no matter what their behavior, the Lord loves them. And maybe they don't know that. So I guess the lesson I've learned is that I will pray for those boys this summer. I will pray that they come to know the love of Christ & accept Him as their Savior.
And learn not to be big mean bullies.
And I will also pray that I won't run into them again (although I have already seen one of them again - yikes!). I'm afraid they live in my neighborhood.
Which means I'm learning another lesson - I HAVE to trust God. I have to trust Him to take care of me in whatever situation He may allow. He's more than capable for the job. I can't sit at home afraid to go run because I don't know what might happen.
I just hope He gives me super powers to run fast if those boys show up on their bikes!