It was just a training session, and we were completely safe.
Still, we crouched, terrified, behind an empty patient bed listening to the “active shooter” pound on the door of the room, and then the pop pop pop of air soft “bullets” ricocheting off the walls as he entered, hunting us, firing.
“It would only take being in one real situation like this to give you a phobia of bullets forever,” I whispered to the nurse beside me. It was unbelievable how scary it was, even though it wasn’t dangerous.
“That was humbling, wasn’t it?” another nurse said to me later.
“It was,” I said.
“Don’t be an easy target,” the instructor said. “If you don’t remember anything else I say, remember that. Weave, distract, do something unexpected, turn a table over and send everything flying. Highly trained police officers only hit 30% of the running targets they aim for. Someone who walks into a building shooting isn’t going to be highly trained.”
We all know the reality of active shooter situations, so close to home that one happened at a grocery store just a few miles away, where a normal evening of picking out produce or snacks ended in terror for many, and loss of life for several.
We were over-protected with face masks, and he wasn’t aiming for our faces anyway. But I think I’ll remember his words for the rest of my life.
There’s another voice I hear, from years and years ago.
“Watch wheels, watch wheels,” my driving instructors would say. “Wheels are the first part of the car where motion can be detected easily.”
They had Velcro cars which they positioned along chalk lanes on the blackboard in the square classroom behind the shoe factory.
“Always look in your rear view mirror when you see brake lights,” they said, giving us little red dots to stick on our rear view mirrors. “Leave space between you and the car in front of you. If someone comes behind you too fast, you’ll have room to move.”
Honestly, they may be the reason I’m still alive. I’m such a bad driver as it is (just ask my sisters…. or my brothers… or my Laurel Street friends… or Marnell) I may have been deadly without them. I still wonder if I’m their only student who almost ran a stop sign twice while driving with them, causing them to slam on their passenger brakes. I also wonder if I’m their only student to lose points on the driving test for speeding.
But, because of their words -still in my head after almost 20 years!- I try to be intentional about looking in my rear view mirror and leaving visible pavement between me and the car in front of me.
This week, I was emotionally exhausted from some things going on at work, when I picked up a book that I had started but never finished, and ran into Abraham, to whom God promised a son years before it happened.
Memories, even of the most magnificent earthly experiences, fade…. Here’s the point: Abraham didn’t stand on a vague memory of a spiritual experience. Rather, he drove a stake of confidence into the words God had spoken to him.
We too have promises from God. The Bible is a warehouse of promises… give Scripture the megaphone and turn up the volume… Abraham eventually became “fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised”.*
Hmmm…. I thought. What promise could I take from the Word of God for my situation? Of course there are lots of verses on those topics, and I had several verses written on my daily schedule sheet.
But the next day, I got off early and was looking at verses for church on Sunday, when a verse which must be one of my earliest memories jumped out at me: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Perhaps “enemies” to David meant a lion or a bear out in the wilderness. But there are so many more: enemies of fear, anxiety, hate-filled words. Those enemies are just as real as a lion, or an active shooter, or a car that’s about to pull out in front of you or hit you from behind.
But imagine, being so comfortable, so relaxed, so protected, that you could sit down and have a refreshing meal at a table in the midst of one of these enemies! Yet, that’s how God had worked in the life of David the shepherd boy. And the promise from God to David, settled down on my heart as well.
In the heat of the moment, when you cannot recall experiences or detailed lists of instructions, all you can remember is words. Don’t be an easy target. Look in your rear view mirror. Watch wheels. You prepare a table before me in the presence of chaos and strife.
Besides being great truths, sometimes words like these are the only way to stay alive.
This sky greeted me on my way into work the morning after I read the promise. Isn’t God’s artwork splendid!
*”Faith for Barren Times” from Letting Go by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert.