When Your Bully Gets on the Bus With You

​Early in the morning on July 15, Anthony jumped out of bed and ran to his suitcase. He checked the contents to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Clothes, shoes, hat, swim trunks ... it was all there. The day had finally come! He was going to Young Life camp!

That afternoon, he and his friends climbed onto a charter bus in a hot parking lot and claimed their seats. He couldn’t believe that, in minutes, they would begin what his leaders promised would be the best week of his life: seven days at SharpTop Cove in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Suddenly an athletic kid wearing a gray football shirt walked onto the bus and made his way up the aisle. Anthony’s heart sank. Could it be? It was Abraham, a varsity football player who had made Anthony’s sophomore year the most miserable of his life. From Anthony’s first day as a transfer student at McCollum High School, Abraham had repeatedly mocked and humiliated him in front of countless students he had hoped to become friends with. Anthony avoided Abraham at school whenever he could, and he definitely wasn’t going on a trip with him, no matter how great the destination.

Anthony had to find a way out. He decided then to call his mom, pretend he was sick and apologize later to his leader for abandoning the trip. He stood up and tried to walk off the bus without attracting attention, but his girlfriend yanked him by the shirt, back into his seat next to her. “You’re not backing out now,” she whispered. “Don’t worry about him.”

The bus pulled away from the parking lot. Anthony stared out the window, dreading what he had looked forward to for months.

Four nights later, he found himself in their cabin’s nightly discussion time, listening to Abraham speak. The boys and their friends had heard incredible stories about the God-Man named Jesus who offered grace to sinners and rescue to the brokenhearted, and many of them struggled with the implications of receiving that truth into their lives. But nothing could have prepared Anthony for what he heard Abraham say to the boys sitting in a circle on their cabin floor.

“I’m worthless,” said Abraham. “I’m a terrible person … and I know it. God could never forgive me for what I’ve done to people. I don’t even know why I’m like this. It doesn’t make me feel better about all this mess and pain in my life.”

Anthony felt his heart stir with a mix of anger, sadness and, finally, courage. He was shocked to hear himself begin to speak to Abraham for the first time all week. “You’re right, dude. God should be mad at you. You threw food at me in the cafeteria on my first day of school while I was sitting alone. You called me names in front of everyone so they could all laugh at me. You made me hate school and you almost made me miss this trip. When I saw you get on the bus, I tried to get off and stay home.” Anthony took a breath. Every guy in the cabin sat in silence, wondering what kind of fight they were about to witness, but even Abraham was quiet.

Anthony continued. “But I’m no better than you. And I know that now. I had no idea what you’ve been through and I know I’m just as broken as you are. I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness either. But He’s giving it to both of us. And I think we should take it.”
Anthony stood and walked across the circle, reaching his hand down toward Abraham. In the next moment they both stood, hugging and in tears, embracing in friendship. Here they were: the bully and the target, the new kid and the popular athlete, the victim and the villain. Reconciled. Restored. Rescued. They arrived at Young Life camp as enemies, but Abraham and Anthony came home as brothers. Is there anything God cannot do?