Grandpa Larry’s Random Reminiscence: Facing Up

File this one under “daring escape attempts.” A man in Chicago quite a few years ago was driving a taxi and his fare put a finger to the back of the driver’s head and demanded his money. The cabbie had no idea it was only the man’s finger and in desperation decided he was going to do his best to live through the experience. He quickly threw open the driver’s door, dropped down to the street and once there, tried to scrabble crab-like away from the presumed assassin. Unfortunately, the cabbie’s timing was poor and he was clipped by a passing city bus. I don’t remember if he lived or not but the moral of the story is “don’t get too desperate too quickly” or “there just might be a simpler solution”.

A few years ago I was having recurring dreams. They weren’t exactly the same, but the plot was. I’d be cruising along and I’d run into some guy just standing around. Soon, I’d discover that he had me in mind for target practice and the next thing I know I’d be running like mad, escaping from my crazed assailant. But my efforts were always futile. And fatal. He always caught me and fired the gun point blank into my heart. I always felt the bullet pierce me, experienced the pain and awoke, a little exhausted.

After being murdered so unmercifully twenty or thirty times I had another dream that was significantly different. I was walking up a set of cement stairs to a doorway three or four feet above ground level. On either side of the door were two well-dressed men leaning on the jambs. What gave them away was the stiletto each one was using to clean his fingernails. I remember experiencing that painful moment of recognition: here they are again, my pursuers, intent on doing me in. I quickly transited into escape mode, scanned the immediate surroundings and decided that my best escape route was to leap over a tall hedge to the left of the landing, dive to the ground, do a tuck and roll like I could do when I was soooo much younger and come up running. After all, these guys only had knives. Maybe I could outrun them. I dove to my right and then the thing that made this dream significantly different happened. I went into ultra-slow motion. Suspended in mid air above the hedge, horizontal with the ground, I was moving about one inch per minute. And since everyone else was stuck in the same tempo, I took the time to evaluate my situation. Here I was trying to escape again. What a futile waste of time. I never get away. I might as well just stick around and get it over with. As soon as I made the decision to face my pursuers, my trajectory slipped into reverse and I dropped to the landing.

Smiling, I said to either one of them, “Okay, I’m all yours. Blow me away if you like. Fire at will.”  And to my surprise they did. One guy pulled the ubiquitous gun from under his coat, pointed it at my heart and fired. The bullet penetrated, I experienced the searing pain and then I woke up. But this time I was amused instead of exhausted. I guess I was finally used to dying and could face it with courage.

I discovered the good news about six months later. It suddenly occurred to me, in a moment of waking reflection, that this had been the last shooting dream. After facing these toughs and dying bravely, amused at their attempt to slay me, they never came back. Well, not really never. Every once in a while I’d spot them in the crowd and smile before I slipped behind a wall or door and eluded them gracefully.

Now, here’s the point. Are there things that are terrifying you? Perhaps “terrifying” is too dramatic a word. Are there things which frighten you or confront you that you don’t want to deal with. Things you’d gladly flee from any time by any means. The fact is they pursue you. It never happens just once. It always becomes a specter that haunts you. Aren’t you tired of running? Isn’t it time to face the situation and let it play out.

Too many times in my life I have been confronted with physical violence. Probably because I’m usually fearless to the point of foolishness in my desire to help others. But four times I specifically remember incidents where a biblical truth was brought dramatically to bear on the situation. Proverbs states that “gentleness turns away wrath”.

A gentle spirit has the power to turn an aggressive attacker into a puppy. On two occasions the men seeking to harm me just let me off the hook after I agreed to go to a place alone with them. They may have even feared my fearlessness and thought perhaps I was some karate expert or something and decided against messing with me. But on the other two occasions, when I faced the attacker bravely and asked quietly and gently what the problem was, the men, one a complete stranger who had come into a motel office to rob and plunder, fell upon my shoulder weeping and a time of comfort and counseling followed.

Is God great or what?  Believe his Word and give it a try! Even when it revolts against your earthly sensibilities. He is a mighty God, able to do great things. He is a rock and a shield and a fortress. He is manifest strength and the greatest gentleness with open arms and a warming smile. He is Jesus!

– Larry Berger, HashtagWV #111. March 2019

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