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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Bullies (08/09/04)

TITLE: The Thin Veil of Offense
By John Hunt


The relentless blows had become a part of daily life for me. One after the other, day after day, they assaulted me without reprieve.

At first, I took it in stride.
They persecuted our Lord, didn’t they?

But in due time I grew weary and settled into a deep despondency. I had convinced myself that I had to face this persecution alone - a self-proclaimed martyrdom. Having just recently transferred to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, I had not yet met many Christians with whom I could share my struggles. I told myself that this was the cross I was forced to bare - this tortuous solitude, this daily affront to my character, this unwarranted, malicious offense. But the sequela of that attitude was that this particular cross, this unpropitious trial in my Christian walk, had become a stumbling stone for me. And with the passing of each day, I became a little more morose.

The blows weren’t physical. They were manifested in attitudes of vulgar impudence, intentional exclusion of camaraderie, and in cutting verbal jabs aimed at my competency, my personality, and my character. They cut me nonetheless. Every day I went home to the barracks wounded, bleeding, and alone.

Errantly, I viewed my fellow airmen with contempt. They were cruel bullies, I told myself; and I was constrained by my Christian beliefs to lash back. I upheld the utmost testimony to my fellow airman. I was blameless, without repudiation; or so I thought. In reality, I had neglected the most fundamental tenant of my faith.

Jesus said for us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us and do good to them that despitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). In this very fundamental cornerstone of Christianity, I had failed.

Despite my failings, I noticed something remarkable over the eight months of my brief internment at Tyndall Air Force Base. While I was being made a very public spectacle each day - relentlessly being put on the judgment seat, my fellow airmen began to confide in me privately. During our long hours of patrol duty on the Air Force base, one by one they opened up to me, telling me about their lives, their fears, and their pain.

“I wasn’t raised like this,” one airman told me. “I just want you to know that. I grew up in church; I didn’t used to act like this.”

Another airman told me how much he missed feeling the Holy Spirit inside of him, how he had been so close to the Lord as a youth. One after the other, day after day, they all in due course confided in me. I listened, and I responded when I thought I should. Upon the commencement of my service at Tyndall Air Force Base, one airman had rededicated his life to the Lord, another received a calling to the ministry, and still others were contemplating turning to God.

Ostensibly, the Lord used my inauspicious circumstances to reach my fellow airmen, despite my apathy for my coworkers and aside from the disdain of the situation that I was in. The striking parallel to the story of Jonah was poignantly apparent.

Looking through the eyes of hindsight, the reason for the thin veil of offense that my fellow airmen brandished is obvious to me now. When bullies lash out, often times they are in actuality reaching out, daring someone to care. How we respond could make all the difference.

I no longer harbor any contempt for the men of my former unit; my repugnance has been replaced with love. As I look back on those days at Tyndall Air Force Base, I think of those men often and wonder where they are now. Do they now face bullies as I did? I remember them often, and I pray.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-11

Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Elder-Criss08/16/04
"When bullies lash out, often times they are in actuality reaching out, daring someone to care."

I think this pretty much sums it up. Wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing. Mary
Dori Knight08/16/04
a good story - thanks for sharing this!
Phyllis Inniss08/16/04
Great article. The bullies learned from you what is good and pure and holy.
Dian Moore08/16/04
"When bullies lash out, often times they are in actuality reaching out, daring someone to care. How we respond could make all the difference."

Melanie Kerr 08/16/04
Good account. I think it must me but I was overawed by some of the big words you used! They are not new words to me, but having so many to deal with hindered my appreciation of your experience.
Joanne Malley08/16/04
You proved here how important it is for us to be more like Christ. Even through your feelings of lonliness and
isolation from the other men, you were eventually able to plant some wonderful seeds that may sprout in the hearts of others.
darlene hight08/17/04
This is a great piece!
Sandra Perry08/17/04
Very well written. Isn't it cool how when God uses us to minister, we get ministered to as well!
Marina Rojas08/18/04
Your article provided an inside look at a man's heart who was failing to look outside of himself. Isn't it wonderful that God loves us so much, that He will 'force' us to be moved outside of our own little satellite station that revolves solely around us---

This was outstanding, and written with a heart that can be heard in it's search for God's will. Thank you.
L.M. Lee08/18/04
boy can I relate to this! Let's just say when Jesus said we would be "priests" ... no one at work ever has anything to do with me...until the need to "confess" something!
Sylvia Spielman08/19/04
I am reminded that we often are allowed to go through a trial for two reasons -- that we might grow ("the trial of your faith" verses found in I Peter), and to serve others . . . the light of Christ shined through you in spite of yourself. Isn't it amazing how God uses us for His glory even while we are still learning how to be more like Him? Good writing!! Sylvia
Sheila Boyd08/19/04
Good story.
gillian liversedge08/20/04
John, thanking so much for sharing that story. I was nearly in tears as I read it. Isn't it amazing how with hindsight we can so clearly see the hand of God in our circumstances. Thank you.
Karen O'Leary08/20/04
I'm sure you made a lasting impact on those you touched. God bless you for sharing your faith.
Kay Brown08/21/04
I was blessed by this article and really enjoyed the story. when we learn deep truth, all the pain becomes insignificant. Thanks for reminding us. Kay
Larry Hill08/22/04
Excellent work, very revealing and compelling to read. Thanks for sharing.
Deborah Anderson08/22/04
Great piece and an even greater testimony. Thank you and God bless.