"I can't wait till I grow up!" ten-year-old Riley said angrily. "No one ever listens to me."
"Did you say something, runt?" Riley's older brother, David, asked sarcastically.
Riley just shook his head and walked away muttering, "No one listens to me."
Later that day, when Riley moved David's bike aside so he could get to his own bike, David shouted, "Who do you think you are, messing with my stuff?" He kicked Riley's bike over and yelled angrily, "I'll tell you who you are-you're Mr. Nobody!"
Riley's eyes filled with tears, but he knew if his brother saw him crying, David would just make fun of him and call him a baby.
He went back in the house and brushed the tears aside with his sleeve.
I'll go visit my friend, Jake, he decided.
"Hey, Riley! What's happening?" Jake greeted Riley at the door.
The boys went to Jake's room to hang out.
"Are you okay?" Jake asked. "You look upset. Has David been picking on you again?"
"Yeah!" Riley hung his head and tried not to cry, but a few tears trickled down his cheeks. "Sometimes David is so mean."
"Have you told your parents? Maybe they could make him treat you better."
"I've told them many times," Riley replied, "but it doesn't do any good. David is their favorite. I'm their mistake."
"I don't understand," said Jake. "How could you be their mistake?"
"They didn't plan to have me. I was born by accident." Riley swallowed hard and tried to keep from bawling. "They didn't want another child. . . . They didn't want me when I was born, . . . and they still don't want me now!"
Finally, Riley could hold the hurt inside no longer. He buried his head in his hands and sobbed.
"Oh, man, I'm so sorry!" Jake put his arm around his friend's shoulder. "You're still my friend, Riley. I care about you."
When Riley regained control of himself, Jake suggested, "I'll go ask my dad if you can spend the weekend with us, okay?"
Riley nodded his approval.
"I'll be right back," said Jake as he left the room to talk to his father.
"My dad says you can stay with us for the weekend," Jake said when he returned. "You think your parents will let you?"
"Yeah, they'll be glad to get rid of me for a couple of days," replied Riley. "I'll go home and get my stuff."
Twenty minutes later, Riley returned with a sleeping bag, a few clothes, and a toothbrush.
"My dad's grilling hotdogs," said Jake. "Later on, we'll go bowling. We'll have a good time this weekend, Riley."
"Hi, Riley." Ethan Pedersen invited his son and Riley to help him grill the hotdogs.
Riley carefully placed a couple of hotdogs on the grill, while Ethan speared the ones that were cooked and put them inside buns.
"Just tell Jake what you want on your hotdog, and he'll 'dress it up' for you," said Ethan with a smile.
When all the hotdogs were done, Riley, Jake, and Ethan sat down at the patio table.
Riley was just about to take a big bite out of his hotdog when Ethan said, "Jake, why don't you say the prayer this time."
"Thank You, God, for this delicious food. Please help my good friend, Riley. Amen."
As the three ate and discussed baseball scores, Riley noticed that Ethan listened to what he said and didn't put him down.
"It's so quiet at your house!" commented Riley.
"Well, sometimes we get a little noisy when we're watching ballgames," replied Ethan.
"No, I mean, you don't yell at each other and say mean things," remarked Riley. "It's peaceful here."
"I hear things get pretty rough for you sometimes at home," Ethan responded.
"Yeah, my brother calls me 'Mr. Nobody,' because that's how important I am," replied Riley.
"Riley, regardless of what anyone says to you, you're always important to God. He planned your life before you were born," Ethan explained. "And He rejoiced at your birth."
"Really?" Riley looked squarely at Ethan. "Are you sure about that?"
"I'm positive," replied Ethan, "because the Bible says so. Jake, please get my Bible from the desk."
When Jake returned with the Bible and handed it to his dad, both boys pulled their chairs closer to Ethan's so they could hear him better.
Ethan turned to Psalm 139 and began reading: "'You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.'"*
"God knows exactly what your situation is at home, Riley," explained Ethan. "But He has a good plan for your life."
"The Bible says that, too?" Riley asked in amazement.
"As a matter of fact, it does." Ethan turned to Jeremiah 29:11, "God says, '"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."' God loves you very much, Riley."
"Hey, Riley, tomorrow you can go with us to Sunday school and church," added Jake. "You'll hear more about how much God loves you, and then you can ask Jesus to come live inside you."
"If God loves me, and Jesus wants to live inside me, then can I ask Him now, or do I have to wait until I'm in church?" questioned Riley.
"You can ask Him right now." Ethan smiled and put his arm around Riley's shoulder. "First, ask Him to forgive your sins, and then ask Him to come into your heart."
Riley closed his eyes. "God, I never knew that You loved me. Please forgive me for anything wrong that I've said or done. Jesus, please come into my heart. Thank You for caring about a nobody like me. . . . Amen."
"In God's eyes, you're special and precious," said Ethan. "Even if other people tell you that you're nobody, always remember: You're very important to God."
By Nancy A. Stevens
* All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.