The strike had ended, and school was underway once again. Everything was going fine for me except for one particular class. My fourth hour class, American Literature taught by Mrs. Williams, became a problem.
On the first day of school before the strike, I walked into the class and noticed that most of the students were Juniors (in 11th grade). I walked to the other side of the room and saw my friend Jeremy, so I sat by him. (Jeremy, you may recall, was one of the friends I was sitting with in the school auditorium when Don first talked to me about Jesus Christ.) But behind me was Ralph, who was now a Junior. He, of course, was in that study hall class where I was mocked constantly a year before. Bert, who had also been in that study hall class, was also in this American Literature class. There were a few others who I remembered from the study hall class. Shortly after class started, Ralph started "barking" out, "Hey, Ruhf! Ruff! RUFF! RUFF!" I started to feel just like I felt in that study hall class a year before, but I took it and didn't say anything.
It got worse shortly thereafter. I was glad when the teachers went on strike because I was able to get a break from that class. I returned to the class after the strike, however, and the problem grew worse. In addition to Ralph, some of the people who sat around me included Lori, Linda, Hazel, Bert, and Amanda. Most of them started mocking me along with Ralph, although Amanda and Lori were the only two who didn't get involved in that.
After about a week of their mocking, I decided that I wanted to get out of that class. I was thinking of dropping the class hour, and then taking the same course independent of the school hours. I had heard of people doing that.
I started talking about this problem to Don during one of the lunch times. He suggested that I carry my Bible to school and do a lot of witnessing. (Don carried his Bible all the time and had been trying to get me to carry mine for awhile. But I didn't have the courage to carry it, so I didn't.)
On Wednesday night of the second week after the strike was over, I went to church. There was no youth group meeting that night and we were all in with the adult prayer meeting. Pastor Walsh gave a message on standing for Christ and said a few things to us teen-agers about witnessing in our high schools and carrying our Bibles. When he gave the "altar call," he told the Christians who wanted to commit it all to Christ to come forward and shake hands with "Brother" Mark. I came forward, shook "Brother" Mark's hand and said, "I've got to carry my Bible to school."
"Okay," he said with a smile.
I prayed on the altar with many others and told God that I was going to carry my Bible to school. I started talking to Don and another guy named Dave after the service was over. (Dave had recently graduated from high school.) I told them about the commitment that I made.
"Yeah, carry it," Dave said. "I never did when I was in school. I regret it now."
"You never carried it?" I asked surprised.
"No," Dave said. "Oh, I carried one, but that was just a little New Testament that I put in my back pocket. Nobody could see it."
"Who's the one who always caught you without it?" Don asked. "Kim, wasn't it?" Kim was another girl in our church, and she carried her Bible to school.
"Yeah," Dave said. "She'd catch me in the halls and say, 'I don't see your Bible!'" Dave paused for a moment, and then added, "Man! That girl amazes me! She's really on fire for the Lord!" Then he looked at me and said, "Carry it, or you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
That last sentence began to "eat" at me, and it was on my mind all the rest of the night. The next morning, I put my little New Testament in my pocket and went to school. I even had it out in the open in a few classes, but most of the time I had it hidden in my pocket. I couldn't get up enough courage to carry it.
But Don kept after me. He brought two Bibles with him one morning and tried to give one to me. After a couple of days, he tried to shove it under my arm, but I lifted up my arm so he couldn't get it under.
After lunch one day (which was just before my 4th hour class), Don made another attempt.
"Do you want to beat the mockery?" Don asked. "Here it is!" He held up the Bible.
"I can't, Don," I said softly.
As I started walking up the stairway to go to my locker, Don abruptly stopped me. He looked me directly in the eyes and firmly said, "There are people in this school who are going to hell! They may never get saved because they had no way to know that you are a Christian! They couldn't see Him in you."
"I can't, Don," I repeated.
"Just take it!" Don said. "Put it in your locker if you don't want to carry it! But, please! Just take it!"
I hesitated for a moment and thought about what Don said. "Okay," I finally said, and I took the Bible. But before I even got to my locker, I had already determined that I was not going to carry the Bible. I was going to throw it in my locker and leave it there. However, when I got to my locker, I couldn't bring myself to put the Bible in there. I knew in my heart that I had to see this thing through! I stood by my locker for a good while, not moving left or right. Then I closed my locker door. I had the books for my next class and Don's Bible in my hand. I was still a little scared about carrying it, so I hid it under some of my books. It wasn't at the bottom of my books, but it still wasn't visible.
The problem still continued in my fourth hour. I began to see this class as a mountain in my life. It was an obstacle that rudely stood in my way, and I was unable to climb over it and get beyond it. So, I stood in the valley, so to speak, never having the courage to face what towered before me. Don's Bible (which was one that Don had just bought at a garage sale for $3) remained hidden under my books for the entire fourth hour class day after day. In my 5th hour class (Physics), it came to the top of my books. It was easier in that class, since I sat next to Edward who professed to be a Christian. Edward and I started talking about what was happening in my fourth hour class. Then after awhile, Gary, who sat two seats down, noticed the Bible and commented about it.
Edward picked it up and said, "It's a good book. You ought to read it."
"No thanks," Gary said.
Then Edward got a little excited and started throwing out tracts to people that sat around us, and I joined in. We witnessed to almost three rows of people (although one of the rows had only two people in it). This really encouraged me, but I still couldn't carry my Bible to my fourth-hour class. One day, I was walking to my class and the Bible was hidden. Don walked by.
"I can't see it!" Don said.
I gave out a laugh, but I didn't take the Bible out from under my other books.
About a week or two had gone by since my commitment to carry my Bible. I was having my Bible out in all of my classes by this time--except my 4th hour class.
I never said anything in 4th hour except to Jeremy. I continued to be mocked and made fun of by most of the people that were around me. It was a very draining experience on my emotions, and I began experiencing a fair amount of depression over this. Finally I decided that it was time to speak up. It was time to climb the mountain! I decided that speaking up was the only way I was going to handle the situation. The problem wouldn't go away, and refusing to confront and face it wasn't helping. My refusal to confront the situation was only making it worse.
On the day I made the decision to speak up, I walked into the classroom, sat in my seat, and heard Ralph (sitting behind me) say, "Hi, Wabit Wuff!" (A mockery of my name.)
I then turned around and said, "Hi, Wa-uf!" (A mockery of his name.) "Howa' ya' doin'?"
Amanda turned around and said, "He talked!"
"Yeah, I talked!" I said to Amanda. "D'ja think I couldn't?"
"You never said anything before."
I was silent no more. During the first few weeks of my speaking up, the conversation was mainly ridiculous stuff. I talked to them in the way that they talked to me. If they distorted my name, I distorted theirs. If they made noises, I made noises back. If they talked to me in baby talk, I talked back to them in baby talk.
Shortly after my starting conversation, Jeremy asked, "Why do you always hide your Bible under your books?" (Jeremy had himself recently come to Christ during an "altar call" at a Methodist church.)
"I don't know," I said.
So I put the Bible on top. People soon noticed it and began to comment about it. Ralph even asked to see it once. I gave it to him and he looked through it.
But the mocking still went on. I eventually began to "strike back." This was the darkest period of this whole experience. It has been said that that the darkest moments often come just before the light breaks. I didn't know it, but my life was about to turn around, and I was finally going to take my commitment to Christ seriously. However, God first was about to force me to confront my self-centered pride!
My friend Steve was also in the class with me. You may recall that he was the one that I used to have cuss-out contests with. He was one of the friends that I sat with during lunch time. He told me one day that he was upset about what was happening. Steve and I were walking down the hallway to 4th hour class after lunch one day, and Linda and Hazel were walking behind us by a distance.
"Hey, Wuff!" they shouted down the hall. "Wabit Wuff! Wuff! Wuff!"
"Man, I feel like cussing them out!" I said to Steve.
"Go ahead!" Steve said.
So I turned around and shouted, "Bitch!"
"Did you hear that?" Linda said to Hazel. "Wuff called me a bitch!"
When we got to the classroom, everyone was waiting in the halls for Mrs. Williams to unlock the door. Linda went up to everyone and said, "Hey, guess what! Wabit called me a bitch!"
"I've ruined my Christian witness now!" I thought to myself with deep feelings of sorrow.
A few days later, one of the girls (I think Linda) literally kicked me in the leg as I walked out of class.
"Bitch!" I cursed.
"Awww!" she said. "A Christian's not supposed to say that!"
"Cram it!" I thought. But as I continued walking down the hall and through the outdoor court, I regretted what I said and was beginning to believe that I would never reach them for Christ because I had messed everything up so badly.
The worst of all these events occurred a short time later. This one involved Linda. When I came out of the class, she was right behind me. She walked up to me and pushed me into the locker. Generally speaking, I was an insecure person. It seemed to be my biggest enemy. It had caused me to "take on" Henry in the bathroom and to think that I was better than the football players; it had caused me to go with the flow instead of standing for what I believed; it had caused me to betray my friends on more than one occassion; it had caused me to be ashamed of Christ on a regular basis; and it had caused me to call Linda a bitch. In fact, it hindered my growth in Christ in so many ways. This incident was no exception. When Linda pushed me into the locker and laughed at me, I couldn't take any more of it! I had never hit a girl in my life, but now I was determined to. I was filled with a complete and total rage, and this girl was going to suffer my full wrath!
I started walking again and noticed Linda walking close to me. I noticed that her face was in perfect alignment to where my fist could travel. I didn't hesitate, nor did I think about what the consequences of my violent action would be. At that moment, I didn't care. I just wanted to get her! I made a fist and brought it back to get the full amount of punch I could get! I swung my fist as hard as I could!
But something happened to my fist when it was only half-way to her face. It immediately stopped beyond my control as if it had just ran into a wall. It was supernatural; I could not have stopped it that suddenly. I had no intention of stopping it; I made no conscious decision to stop it. I felt no pulling in my muscles, as I should have felt if I had made the decision to stop it of my own will. At that precise moment a Voice inside of me cried in unmistakable English words, "No! Don't do it!" I instantly knew that it was the "Voice" of God. I stood still for a second and then brought my fist down.
My first reaction was pure fear. I couldn't believe that I was actually going to hit someone, especially a girl! The next thought related to the consequences: a ruined Christian witness, suspension or expulsion from school, and shamefully facing my dad who taught my brother and I to never hit girls! Then I thought of how it was stopped. God had stopped me from carrying out what I had planned!
Terror gripped me! I thought that the wrath of God was going to come down and destroy me for my wickedness! Little did I know that the tides were about to turn and God was about to work in a great way in spite of my sin. However, in order for that to happen, I first needed to confront the ugliness of my insecurity that poisoned the very fabric of my being. By the grace of God, I faced the carnal pride within my heart. I said, "No more!" to the sinful ways that I dealt with my problems. I decided that I would now let Christ, and Christ alone, dictate how I would deal with situations. Unlike other times that I had said this, I really meant it! I had now reached the top of my mountain, and I would begin to come down the other side. I would begin to reach out to my school with the gospel, and I would begin to reach out to the people in my fourth hour class. I would still make my share of mistakes, but this incident was the turning point in my life.
Nonetheless, the jokes like, "He's a scwu-ey wabit!" [like "He's a screwy rabbit" on the Bugs Bunny cartoons] and "Wabit's a Wufian!" continued. One time Ralph and Bert were going back and forth between the two of them throwing out jokes on my name. I suddenly turned around and said, "Hey, Ralph! I've got one for you! Listen to this: 'Heeeeres Robert! Da-Da-Da-Da-Da, Da-Da-Da-Da!" (I was imitating the introduction and music for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.)
Ralph and Bert stared at each other and started laughing.
I started handing out tracts one day. Everybody around me got one including Linda, who sat two rows away. She began reading it and mocking it out loud.
Of all the people in that 4th hour American Literature class, I would say that next to my two friends Steve and Jeremy, only one person made an attempt to talk to me or to get to know me without mocking me: Amanda. She sat right next to me. However, I was shy around girls, and this hindered me in getting to know her. Amanda was a very good looking girl, and this made me even shyer. I liked her.
But the weird stuff still went on. One day, Ralph said to me, "Rob, you're possessed!"
So I turned around, reached my arms outward like a demon-monster and said, "Roooooaaaarrrr!"
Ralph slid his desk backwards away from me very fast in mock fear, and everyone laughed (including me). I did it again about 30 seconds later and Linda mocked, "Let's see that again, Rob!"
I regretted doing that, though. I asked God to help me get a more serious Christian witness going.
Another thing happened when we took a quiz. After we had finished, we had to exchange it with someone else to get it corrected. Linda corrected mine. When I got it back, I found that Linda had changed the R's in my name to W's so that my name read "Wobert Wuhf."
"Look at what she did," I said to Jeremy.
"What?" Jeremy said.
"She changed my name."
"Oh!" Jeremy said jokingly. "It looks better that way."
"Yeah," I said. "But she did it as a joke--"
Amanda suddenly snatched my paper and shouted, "Oh, all right! Here!" And she changed the W's back to R's. I'm not sure why she did that, however.
When she handed my paper back, I said, "I wasn't complaining, Amanda! I was joking around." I then changed the R's back to W's.
The papers had already been passed up, so I had to take mine up to Mrs. Williams. When I gave it to her, I said, "I didn't do those W's." I then walked back to my desk. She stared at the paper for a few seconds, but nothing much else happened.
After school one night, I was walking through the area where the Juniors' lockers were (which was in the same area where my fourth hour class was). As I was heading for the door to the outside court, I heard someone say, "Hi, Rob."
I kept on walking, not realizing she was talking to me.
"Hi, Rob!" she said louder.
I realized that it was Amanda, and she was talking to me. I hesitated for a moment, but then started walking a little more. I was too nervous to shout back for fear that maybe she wasn't really talking to me.
"HI, ROB!!!" She shouted much louder. "WELL, DON"T SAY 'HI' THEN!"
Then I was out the door and I felt real stupid. I came up with an excuse (a lie) as to why I didn't say "Hi" to her, and I decided to talk to her about it. But Amanda got to me first.
"I said 'Hi' to you last night!" she said with a "down" face the next day in class.
"You called me 'Rob" didn't you!" I said.
The discussion was interrupted because the class started, but it resumed at the end of the class period.
"What's wrong with 'Rob?'" she asked. "I know someone who's name is Robert, and we call him 'Rob.'"
So I gave my false excuse: "No, you don't understand. I don't mind it. I'm not used to being called that, so I didn't know that you were talking to me."
Amanda smiled a little at that. But I really hadn't told her the truth. The truth was that I liked her and I was too shy to talk to her, but I didn't want her to know that.
I wanted a chance to verbally share Christ with Amanda because I hadn't done that yet. One morning before school started, I ran into Amanda in the hall by her locker. The halls were empty of people. There was no one else around.
"Hi, Rob," she said.
"Hi, Amanda," I said. I took out a tract and said, "Can I ask you to take a look at this sometime?"
"Sure," she said. She took the tract.
We said a few sentences more and then went our separate ways. I was planning to talk to her about it later, but I don't remember much of what happened. I did talk to her about it, but I don't remember what I said. Communication between her and me gradually died down to nothing, mainly because I was too shy around her to keep it going.
But things began to look up in my 4th hour class, as people stopped mocking and started listening to me talk about Christ. I went to an Amy Grant concert early in November. Linda shouted in class the next day, "Hey, Wabit! I saw you at that Christian concert last night!" (Believe it or not, the term "Wabit" changed from being meant in mockery to being somewhat of a friendly nickname!)
I turned to look at her and said, "Yeah? Who did you go with?"
"I went with my sister," she said. "She was pretty good in concert, wasn't she?"
"Yeah, she was," I said.
Lori turned around (who sat in front of Amanda) and said, "What concert?"
"Amy Gwant," Linda said, twisting the "r" in Grant to a "w" sound.
"Oh," Lori said with a tone of disappointment in her voice. She seemed to be expecting a bigger name artist, or something. She turned back around to what she was doing.
Don was also mentioned at times. He was referred to as "the other evangelist" by Ralph.
I became increasingly open about my faith, and they became increasingly open to listen to me. God was beginning to turn everything around!