december 23, 2001. five years ago today.
when i woke up that morning, i was in a hurry. it was a sunday, and i had decided late the night before to stay over at my friend sara's house, instead of trying to brave it home in the typical michigan blizzard. being that it was a sunday, i had to leave her house quite early in the morning to make it home to get ready in time for church.
the alarm sounded, i grabbed my sweatshirt and headed for the door. i stopped to get my keys from the counter, but they were not there. i must have left them in the car, i thought.
i headed out the door to a still-dark december morning. the chill in the air was biting, and i headed quickly for my car on the opposite side of the parking lot. i saw a man walking near my car, and thought to myself, now i have someone to say 'good morning' to! (what can i say, the spirit of christmas affects even me in the wee hours of the morning!)
what happened next will never leave my mind. it has greatly impacted my life over the last five years, and i am sure it will continue to. glimpses of that morning come back to me; i am aware of things i never was; i will never be the same person.
that man, that seemingly innocent man across the way, approached me. he made me get in my car, wanting me to drive somewhere... but i didn't have my keys. come to find out, in her habitual cleaning the night before, sara had moved them. God only knows what would have happened had she not done so. after he realized that, he took my wallet, and throughout the course of our 15-minute encounter, threatened to kill me several times. he then took me back behind the apartment building, where the morning only got worse. thankfully, he never touched me... physically anyway.
in the midst of what was going on, my cell phone fell out of my purse, and he didn't see it. after he left- again, threatening to kill me- i saw it there on the ground, and called sara for help. we called 911, and the police came... and didn't believe my story. no, instead, they spent the rest of the morning telling me that it's criminal to falsely report a crime. it didn't make sense, they maintained, that i could be at such peace after such a horrific event had happened to me. what they didn't understand was that i was not alone that morning- the Prince of Peace was with me the entire time. i was thankful that what could have happened didn't, but more than anything, i had the peace of Christ in me.
i don't say this to imply that it is inappropriate to ever react to circumstances, that the peace of God protects us from emotion. it certainly does not- God created us to be emotional creatures. but what it does mean is that, in the midst of the trials, in the midst of the emotions, we have been promised that Christ sent us a Comforter- and that the Holy Spirit indwells those who belong to him. He has promised us peace, not as the world gives- as only He can give.
i really don't know how to put that in more practical words. i don't know what "having God's peace" means to you, how it makes you feel, how it changes you. i don't know how to say it without sounding cliche. that is certainly not my intention.
but what i do know what i felt that morning. i know that, sitting outside, freezing cold, wondering if i would ever see my family again- that somehow, in some indescribable way, i felt at peace.
so this christmas, i pray for you to feel that peace. like i said, it may look differently in your life. whether it's a deployment, a debilitating disease, a family crisis, a traumatic event- i know that Jesus offers his peace, which passes our understanding.