In This World We Will Have Trouble…. or “Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…

John 16:33… “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” 

SO, what am I supposed to do, to 1) identify potential trouble, 2) protect myself from it, and 3) have practical ways to deal with what does happen?  

God gives me the ability to think. He gives me my intellect, judgement, discernment, and wisdom. But I have to use those things. Sometimes, especially when I’ve been  taught to give to others, help neighbors, and reach out to those in need, I can lose sight of something that is equally important- knowing when I am in trouble. Knowing when I am in danger, or when the evil of others is targeted against me is something I must pay attention to, and act on. God also gave me the ability to perceive danger.  I can’t shame myself into getting in harm’s way, because I’m afraid I won’t be perceived as a ‘good Christian’.  And younger adults don’t always have the life experience to discern ‘neighbor’ vs. ‘enemy’ when the boundaries are blurry… 

I was fairly new to Texas, and working as a nurse on a neurology/neurosurgery floor at night. During the day, I babysat a 6 month old baby from the next door apartment building. I was young (and had energy), and really enjoyed taking care of the baby, as well as my job. For the next 6 months, I had the little guy with me for 9 hours/day, 6 days/week. The baby’s mom and dad were younger than I was ( I was only 22 when I started watching “J”) and didn’t have much money.  Anyway, I usually used the money they gave me to get things for ‘J’. If it was raining, I’d drive his mom the three blocks to her work at the mall.  I was invested with this family, and really cared about the baby. 

Fast forward: I’d had a back injury, and been in the hospital. During that time, my coworkers moved my old apartment contents to a new place, as I was in traction. When I got out, I stopped by the old place, then went to ask the baby’s mom if she would be interested in cleaning my old place (my back was still tender), and I’d pay her- she agreed. At that time, she introduced me to her brother who had been recently released from prison (‘wrong place at the wrong time” was the story she was told), and I said hello- a very brief, generic introduction. We also agreed that I’d watch ‘J’ the next Saturday. 

Very early the next Saturday (about 4 a.m.) I got a call from the brother, asking if I could come over right away; the baby’s father had been in a car accident, and they needed someone to get the baby so they could go to the hospital. I jumped up and immediately got dressed and drove to the baby’s apartment.  I was met by the brother in the parking lot. He told me that the baby’s mom was talking to a friend, and was very upset- they’d bring the baby down in a few minutes. He went back, presumably to the apartment.  Long story short- he said they’d decided to take the baby with them, and would bring him back to my apartment later, at the time I was originally going to watch him. He asked if he could come back to my apartment since they didn’t have a phone to wait for news about  “E” (he’d called me from the corner convenience store). I knew they didn’t have a phone; it all sounded reasonable. But I didn’t know this guy, and knew he’d been in prison (for what, I wasn’t sure). BUT, I was supposed to help my neighbor. I took him back to my apartment.

I showed him where the phone was, and that there was soda in the refrigerator, and I went back to my room. The baby wasn’t going to be dropped off for several hours. I was a bit uneasy, and locked the door. I’d been out the night before, and got home late, so when I went to lie down, it didn’t take long to drift off. He said he was going to make some phone calls about the baby’s dad, and seemed fine being out in the living room with phone and phone book.  

I woke up a few minutes later with a knife at my neck.  I was threatened with death if I didn’t fully cooperate. He tied me up with the phone cord and packing tape, and for the next 6 hours, my life was torn upside-down.  He did things I’d never heard of, and beat me repeatedly. It was obvious that he couldn’t leave me alive since I knew who he was and where he lived- and if caught, he’d be back in prison to finish the first prison sentence, along with whatever he got for what he did to me.  

I should have listened to my ‘gut’ reaction to taking this relative stranger home with me. I should have required a face-to-face conversation with the baby’s mom, while I was still in my locked car in the parking lot in front of a busy road (before he got in the car).  I should have ‘run’ like crazy, but I was taught to help my neighbor. I wasn’t taught to think it through first.  And I wasn’t prepared to respond to someone who apparently needed my help, except to willingly give it. I should have had better skills to deal with this. 

During the time I was ‘stuck’, I kept looking for opportunities to escape. And I prayed a lot. He was never out of reach of the knife, until he finally passed out in my bed. I was bleeding, and got up to use the bathroom. I looked back at the bed, and he was still asleep. I grabbed a towel, and ran (as quietly as I could). I thought for sure he was behind me as I went down the stairs to the neighbors I’d met the day before (I’d only lived in that apartment for 10 days). Anyway, I called 911 from the neighbor’s phone (twice- first cop- a rookie- got beat up and thrown out of my apartment before backup was there- he beat up a cop).  When I ran, the risk was gone- die then, die later, or get out and get help. 

Police came, shot him in my bedroom, and every news station in town was there, as well as the hospital helicopter (for him) and an ambulance (for me). Officers were everywhere.  He didn’t die, had to go to trial, but he changed his plea to guilty after I testified for 2 1/2 hours, and I would only agree to a 60-year sentence (which at that time in Texas was the same as a life sentence in terms of parole possibility – the law changed a few months later to NOT require mandatory release after 1/3 of the time served, the rest of the time would be on parole…. he’d be under the department of justice ‘control’ until he’s 88 years old). It never ends, with parole hearings, he gets in trouble, goes to jail, gets out, gets in trouble again, and is currently in prison, awaiting a parole hearing. Keep in mind, he had been on parole for 38 days when he attacked me. Parole doesn’t work for people like him.  

I learned some very difficult, and late, lessons. 

I do NOT need to feel guilty for keeping myself safe. Am I supposed to help people?  Yep.  Am I supposed to be an idiot in the process? I don’t think so!  And helping  out of pride, just to end up tormented by evil won’t help either; I don’t think that’s what I was doing- I loved that baby. Proverbs 6:16-19 talks about things the Lord detests…not getting attacked by psychos isn’t on the list ! 

I should have asked to talk to someone I did know fairly well (his poor sister was so afraid I’d think she knew what he was up to- he’d planned the attack, and stole my address and phone number from her purse; she found out about it on the news after not being able to get in touch with me- I should have picked the baby up at 8 a.m.- and that’s the last thing she knew; she testified for the prosecution). If someone refuses to let me speak to someone I know, that’s a deal breaker.  And I never have the car doors unlocked while talking to someone I don’t know well enough to let IN the car. Ever. 

If something feels ‘wrong’, I should hit the road;  I can’t assume that being a Christian, and praying NOT to be attacked will result in being kept safe. Faith is crucial- but I can pretty well guarantee that the attacker isn’t being led by the Holy Spirit. I can only pray for my own faith, wisdom, and discernment,  and for the person to listen to reason and for God to intervene. But if they aren’t open to God, they’re not going to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.  It might take some time and creative thinking… and having to deal with what they do to me to avoid getting killed until it IS safe to get away. I can recover from trauma; I can’t recover from murder.  I do believe God was with me that day. This man was determined to attack ME. He planned it and stole my address and phone number from his sister’s purse. I was the target. But God was still in control of the outcome. 

I need to know about surviving attacks, and what can prolong survivability. I’m responsible to educate myself now that I know what can happen.  In hindsight, I also help to educate others. And, I do feel that a big part of the church is NOT to directly address the possibility of these things happening to Christians.  Well, I can definitely say that nobody can ‘out-holy’ a sociopath. They simply don’t care. I needed to have more information about the real world. 

Know how to preserve evidence: Do not wash anything that has been touched or violated (especially yourself, even though the only thing you want to do is get ‘him’ off of you). For some reason (probably nursing school) I knew this was important, and it did save a lot of evidence. My attack was before DNA, but in today’s forensic world, what I did NOT wash off would have guaranteed a conviction. 

I need to have a set of requirements in place BEFORE I get into a  situation as to what warrants the ‘caution response’, or following through with that ‘gut feeling’ to get away from the situation. Staying alive is not a sin !!!  It is OK to apologize later for overreacting. Once I was attacked, I could never get that option back. I’d become a statistic. 

Proverbs 27: 12 “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

My huge fear is that churches are sending Christian young people out into the world with the idea that every situation is going to be a way to show the sort of love that ‘one lays down his/her life’ for.  Please, make the conscious decision to teach kids and young adults to think about the consequences of their actions. The part of the brain that conceptualizes the longterm consequences for choices isn’t fully developed until age 25.  “Help your neighbor”, ‘be a good Samaritan’, and ‘do unto others’  need to have thought behind them as well as the actions.   I was ill prepared for what I faced after moving out on my own.  And, I paid a huge price.  The words ‘rape’, ‘sodomy’, and ‘aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon’ are horrible- but talking about them isn’t as bad as being the target of them.  Prepare the kids. Put discomfort aside, and teach them to listen not only to their hearts, but to their gut. ❤

 

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