Friday, May 28, 2010

Stalked by the Stoned

I have been mugged on three occasions in three cities and three countries, the kind of cultural immersion that one does not particularly seek out. Worse than being mugged, though, where the attackers want only your money, is being stalked, where those nearly stepping on your heels could be after your life. Lizzie and I experienced this in Arlington, Virginia one Saturday as we were walking home from the metro station. Three strapping and obviously stoned men walking behind us on a suburban street devoid of pedestrians began marching in step and chanting in unison, “You’re going to die.” Continuing in the same measured tread we had used from the metro station, I gave no indication to Lizzie that I was concerned about the stalkers behind us who were very rapidly drawing nearer. At the same time, my mind was casting about for a safe ending to our situation. Fortunately, on the next block I recognized the home of a man whom I did not know but who always waved to me as I walked in the mornings to the metro station. Trusting that he would help us, I pushed open the gate, saying to Lizzie, “Ah, here we are!”

We walked up to the door and rang the bell. The three stoned men leaned against a tree, watching. No one was home! Becoming as calm as the ocean on a windless day (my typical reaction to dangerous situations), I quickly conceived another ruse.

“Right!” I said to Lizzie, hopefully loudly enough for the three not-so-well-intentioned musketeers to hear. “He said he would be working on his bicycle in the back.”

Lizzie and I walked around to the back of the house, as our trio of stalkers watched. Once we were out of sight, I turned to Lizzie and whispered urgently, “Run!” We scampered home along the back alleys, like rabbits running from hunters.

Recalling this incident, I have to wonder how an 11-year-old had the presence of mind and spirit to show no concern as three burly and unruly men threatened to kill us at every step they took. As for me, I had some extra adrenaline coursing through my veins, but I never believed that we would be killed. I felt protected, but at the time I would not have been willing to put a name to the source of protection.

Perhaps an explanation of what really happened that Saturday afternoon can be found in the Book of Privy Counseling, where the author was likely speaking about someone like a Good Samaritan — and being a Good Samaritan had been part of my life since childhood:
…[any such individual]…will certainly be protected from the onslaught of his enemies within and without, by the gracious goodness of God himself. He need not marshall his own defenses, for with faithfulness befitting his goodness, God will unfailingly protect those who, absorbed in the business of his love, have forgotten concern for themselves. Yet is it surprising that they are so wonderfully secure?
During the stalking, I felt very little fear. What I felt instead was a near-tranquil calmness that let me take advantage of our fortuitous coming upon a known house and the knowledge of the back alleys. At some deep level, I must have known that we were protected.

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