My mother always warned me about traveling alone at night. But, although I was an adult, and always a dutiful daughter, or what’s known as a “compliant child,” I never heeded her advice in this particular matter. And late one night, I came face-to-face with a startling reason why she had often issued her dire warnings.
It happened that very late one evening, I had been visiting my brother and sister-in-law’s house, and ended up staying longer than I had planned. So, after hugging and kissing our goodbyes, I later found myself driving along a fairly empty city street, headed back to my house, forty miles away, at around 1:30 in the morning. It was a clear night, and I found myself riding along, feeling carefree, and singing along to a lot of my old favorite “bell-bottom blues,” on the car radio.
The reason I felt so good was that, after their three young boys had gone to bed, my brother and sister-in-law and I had spent the evening discussing what the Bible has to say about various personal, political and societal issues. We had ended up by sharing our personal and individual understanding of, and faith in, God. So, it had ended up with me leaving their house feeling loved and awed by my Creator, as well as cherished by my family. I might have been riding in my car, but I was really walking on air
Suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten to get gas earlier in the day, and was running on “E,” as the saying goes. I made a mental note to stop at my regular station along the way home, and kept on singing, priding myself in knowing all the words to most of the song than were playing, lost in memories of the teen years I’d spent matching the events of my life to their lyrics.
Suddenly, I was startled to see that I was approaching the intersection where my favorite gas station was located, but I was in the wrong lane. Yet, the street which, up until now, had been almost vacant, was suddenly filled with traffic, and I realized that I couldn’t get over in time. I felt a momentary hesitation, and nervousness, but decided I’d just go on to the next station, which was located right at the entrance to the freeway I had to take to get home. No big deal, I thought to myself. It’s well-lighted; it should be OK. That turned out to be a very wrong assumption!
I pulled up to one of the gas pumps and began to fill up my tank. On the other side of my island, I could hear two men arguing. One was the driver of the vehicle on the other side of the island where I was pumping. I glanced up and could see that he had a woman passenger. The other man, who seemed to be quite inebriated, was standing about ten feet away from that vehicle, shouting obscenities at the driver, who was hanging up his gas nozzle. Apparently, the drunk man wanted a ride and had been refused. “I want a ride, or I want my #&@! money back,” shouted the intoxicated man.
My pump nozzle suddenly clicked and snapped me out of my eavesdropping. After I hung it up, I dug into my purse for some cash, so I could pay and get out of there as soon as possible. As I walked up to the window, the shouting was growing louder and more colorful. The driver kept telling the other man calmly, but firmly, that he should go on about his business, but the second man just wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer.
I quickly slid my cash into the bin of the after-hours window, and started back to my car on the outside island. I got about halfway back, glancing over towards the altercation, just in time to see the driver of the other vehicle wielding what looked like a large hunting rifle, with a scope, crosswise in front of him, as the other man continued shouting.
I stopped cold in my tracks. There was no place I could hide, no place I could run, fast enough to outrun a bullet, in case the driver didn’t want to leave any witnesses. With no options, and out of instinct, or perhaps, could it be….faith, I tilted my head back, and glanced at the star-filled night sky. I don’ t know whether it was the awesome abundance of stars, or the lingering aroma of pure faith, and enveloping love, that I was still carrying with me from the conversation earlier in the evening. But, I just remember saying in my spirit, “God, my life is in Your Hands!” I knew that, at that moment, there was nothing I could do to save myself. I was out in the open, with fifty feet of pure empty space around me. But, in that instant , I knew that my fate did not lie in the hands of the man holding that gun. It was in God’s Hands only, and it was totally up to Him whether I lived or died. It was not up to the man with the gun.
So, I did something that astounded me even as I did it: I smiled at that man! I looked him straight in the eyes and gave him a big, hearty, warm smile! I just stood there, smiling. Then, I lowered my eyes and calmly walked to my car. When I’d gotten to the window, I’d found that I owed two more cents than the twenty dollar bill I’d dropped into the window slot. But, instead of diving into my car and driving off as fast as I could, I simply reached into my purse, grabbed two pennies, and walked slowly and deliberately right back across that huge open space of the parking lot, right back up to the window.
Why I did that, I can’t tell you. My life for two cents! It had felt like the back of me was trying to crawl up over the front of me to walk faster, so I could get out of there! But, I forced myself to make each step calm and slow and deliberate. I think my mind, or my inner spirit, was saying, “My life is in God’s Hands! My life is in God’s Hands!” I was almost relishing in the deep spiritual awareness of the greatness of this new and profound awareness that the God of the universe literally had my back! Not me. Not that man with the gun. God!
When I finally turned from the window, both men and the car, with its passenger were gone. And, I remember feeling almost disappointed that this awesome moment was over. I simply got back into my car, put the key into the ignition, and drove away. It was then that I remembered saying, a long time ago, “I pray that if I’m ever faced with a gun, I won’t deny my faith in God.” Well, I had always thought, much too proudly, that that prayer had come from me. It was only then that I realized that God had known ahead of time that I would be faced with that situation, and that He, and not I, was the source of my prayer. The prayer He had given me had been His awesome and miraculous way of preparing me!
(As an added note, when I told the brother, whom I had been visiting with that night, about what had happened, he pointed out that my being there may well have served to prevent a shooting from occurring that night, sparing the second man’s life. How selfish had been my viewpoint! Truly, our God is an awesome and loving God, who loves all of us beyond what we could ever imagine! Yes, my faith could, indeed, look into the face of a gun, and not only survive, but grow by leaps and bounds!