I remain amazed at how many things went through my mind while the two handguns were pointing at my head. One of those things was, “why didn’t I just keep the car?”
My wife and I moved to Colorado Springs in 1992 to attend Nazarene Bible College. We felt that God had called us to the ministry and further called us to NBC to prepare. Like many of the students there, we left pretty good paying jobs and uprooted our lives and families to follow God’s call. There were times while at NBC when I had to sell coins that I had been saving since childhood just so we could move up from having to wonder what we were going to eat to being able to have beans and cornbread. Our “riches to rags” story isn’t as dramatic as some others who attended NBC though, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a great time that helped to prepare us for the years ahead, both educationally and experientially.
One particular night played into those experiences that helped to develop us.
The neighborhood we lived in wasn’t a bad one. It was predominately a lower-middle-class community with small, basic ranch houses that closely resembled each other. The nice thing about our house was that it was just about a mile and a half from where I had found work at Christian Booksellers Association. My job at CBA was mainly to process orders from member bookstores, package them and prep them for shipping. Since I was attending NBC, my supervisor worked with me to allow me to occasionally attend day classes then make up my work hours in the evening. This was one of those nights. My wife worked at the daycare at NBC and I had a class this particular evening as well as a day class so we left the school kind of late. I decided not to take the time to take my wife home then drive back to work, so I had her drop me off and I would just walk the mile and a half home.
Being alone in the building, I wasn’t concerned with what I was wearing, so I planned for my walk home by just wearing a t-shirt and running shorts. No pockets, no money, no wallet, just my keys. I worked a couple of hours or so, long enough to process the orders from the day that were left for me. I finished about midnight then made sure the doors were locked and started on my way home. It was a dark, moonless night but I thought that the occasional streetlight would be enough to illuminate my way home.
I was just about three or four blocks into my walk home when I heard rustling in the bushes behind me. At first I didn’t see anything or anyone, but I knew I wasn’t alone when I heard something like “don’t turn around!” Normal reaction caused me to turn to where the voice was coming from and I saw two men with handguns pointed right at me. The stench of alcohol flooded my sense of smell as the one closest to me told me to turn back around. The next thing I heard was him yelling, “give me your money, now!” It was all surreal. It seemed like everything was going in slow motion. I thought about how I wished that I had just driven to work. I thought about how I might not get out of this situation safely. I thought about what my death would mean to my family. I wondered what I would do if they took my keys and made me tell them where I lived . . . or they’d shoot me, how could I protect my family?
I wish that I could say that I spoke to my assailants about God; about how whatever they were facing, God could help them; how Jesus loved them and wanted to have a relationship with them. But I can’t say that I did that. Their well-being wasn’t on my mind; I was just trying to figure out how to get out of the situation.
“Give me your money!” I was told again. “I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, where would I have money?” I either said or thought, I don’t know if the words actually came out or not. I went on to say, “I don’t have anything but my keys.” My keys were tucked into the waist band of my shorts and when I pulled them out they dropped to the ground as I raised my arms to show I had nothing else.
I knew this isn’t what they wanted to hear and I could still see in my peripheral vision the muzzles of their handguns pointing right at my head. The one doing the talking seemed to be getting frustrated. Smelling the alcohol, I worried that they were drunk so may not have much control over their trigger fingers. My muscles tightened as I cringed and prepared myself for the impact of the bullets penetrating my skull. The seconds seemed like minutes as I waited for the shots to be fired.
Just then, as though they were scared off by something, he yelled at me to get out of there, to go! I grabbed my keys that I had dropped and ran across the street. I looked back and couldn’t see them but I kept running for another block or two.
I still had about a mile to go so was able to calm down quite a bit before I got home and found my wife asleep as I expected. I slid into bed and soon drifted off to sleep as I thought about what had happened that night and even more about what could have happened. The next morning, I told my wife my experience and amazed, she related to me what had happened to her that night: Before she went to bed, she felt prompted to pray for me. She didn’t know why she had that feeling, but she prayed.
Scripture is clear that Christians are to pray. We are to be persistent in prayer. We are to pray without ceasing. We are to pray in Jesus’ name. We are even promised, “. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27, NIV).
I have no doubt that my wife prays for me regularly, but that night was different. She had already prayed. She was ready for bed. But she prayed again. She prayed for me and my life was saved.