It was late November, many years ago. I was in the meeting planning business. In addition to other work, I was preparing for two fairly large conferences being held four days apart. The first one was going to have close to 500 attendees and the second was going to have more than 1,000 people in some combination of attending the conference and/or walking through the exhibits. I was working a lot of hours.
One Friday night during that time, I decided to go home a little early. It was just after eight p.m. when I reached the Metro platform and sat on a bench to wait for the next train. I was pretty tired so I closed my eyes. A minute or so later, I felt someone tap my shoulder and then heard a man say, “You always need to be aware of your surroundings.” I looked up to see a not-so-small man leaning over me as he repeated the sentence. “You’re so right,” I nodded my head. “Thanks.”
This apparently was an invitation for him to keep me company.
In a very pleasant, conversational tone, he continued to explain the dangers of not paying attention and how, for example, he was certain that I wouldn’t be able to describe him if he did something to me. Despite my new friend’s obvious concern for my well being, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with his ongoing choice of topic. I pointed over my left shoulder, up to the ceiling, and just as pleasantly as he, said, “If you do something to me, there’s a camera right there and they will see you.” He looked directly at the camera and then at me and then became very, very angry.
He began hurling accusations and obscenities at me and calling me not-so-kind names. As he continued to tell me how despicable I was, I heard the train coming down the tracks, nearing our stop. I stood up to get ready to board the train.
“I could throw you in front of this train right now and nobody could stop me,” he whispered menacingly.
Unfazed and without any fear or hesitation, I looked right at him and asked, “What would be the point?”
“Wha-a-t?” He looked at me, confused.
“What. would. be. the. point?” I enunciated each word as if I were talking to a child in desperate need of correction rather than someone who had just threatened to kill me.
He finally stopped talking and didn’t seem to know what to do as the train rushed by us. The train came to a stop and as I boarded, he just stood there, still looking confused, staring at me. He then walked away and stepped into the car behind the one I was on. Up until that moment, I had been completely unafraid, even though I perceived from the get-go a real threat to harm me in some way—whether physically or only to induce fear, I don’t know. All I know is that I felt … strong.
Trust me when I say this, I am not a confrontational person. I have no idea where that question came from. Those were just the words that came out of my mouth. All I can say is that, in that moment, I felt strength within me that I had never known before. I just knew that whatever he tried to do, he was not going to be able to harm me—like I had a huge bodyguard right there with me. Weird, huh?
It wasn’t until I sat down, surrounded by a good number of people in the car, that I began to tremble uncontrollably for a little bit. What the *&#! just happened? What was I thinking talking to him like that? What if he had pushed me in front of the train? What if he had followed me and continued to harass me? Would anyone have helped me? The possibilities of something that never happened scared me. But then again, wow, he backed down, didn’t he? You go girl. Did he see my big, brawny angel? Because there is no way that it was just little ol’ me who stopped him in his tracks.
I look back on that evening and can’t help but wonder, what if I faced life more often as unafraid as I faced him in that moment? What would be accomplished? What doors would open? What if I ignored the accuser’s lies that I’m not strong enough, smart enough, loving enough, good enough, attractive enough, outgoing enough, talented enough … ? What if I dared to stand up to those fiery darts? What if I kept in mind that even though I will probably get hurt in this life, because I am His I will not be forever harmed?
What would happen instead if I dared more often to trust and believe God? What if I remembered to say “who cares if I’m not enough, but He is”? What if I allowed Him to be my strength? I wonder how life would be if I could change these what ifs into what is, rather than worrying about what ifs not in my control.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but one of power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1: 7