He came out of the bushes so fast. One moment I was absorbed in the peaceful revere of my run and prayer, the next he was crashing towards me. I knew when he looked straight into my face and did not slow down that I was in trouble.
“This is not good,” I thought.
I had so been looking forward to that run. My heart was heavy and I knew if I could just get to the trail, run and pray, that God would minister to my weary soul. I dropped the kids off at school and went straight there. As I was preparing to get out of my van, a car pulled into the narrow lot a short distance away. A young man was in the driver’s seat. I saw him get out and immediately run down the trail.
“That is weird,” I thought. “Nobody runs in jeans….”
Stranger still, after I reached the running path I found he seemed to simply have disappeared.
I walked for a moment to get warm and then began to run. Once again, I was amazed at how quickly the roar of the road behind me gave way to the gentle gurgle of the river, the whisper of wind through the branches above, the songs of the birds as they called to each other….
My heart immediately turned to prayer as my feet pounded out the paved trail beneath me.
I met two friends on the trail as they made their way home. We spoke briefly as we ran past each other. I ran on in silent communion with my Maker. My path left the cocoon of the woods and stretched into a more open place as I traced the river’s edge. I met another runner but he did not return my “good morning” and then I saw no one else.
I was unusually tired and would stop to walk at times to catch my breath. I pushed myself to my turn around point and began the run back to the beginning. Occasionally I heard strange splashing in the water below and I wondered where the young man in the jeans had gone. Was he throwing stones in the river? A nature lover, perhaps?
But mostly I prayed.
“God, give me pockets of joy….my heart is so weary….show me how to rise above…..”
Look around you, my child..
The morning was clear, cold, and awash with the colors of autumn. I praised him for the trees, the crisp air, the strength I had, even though it was small. I rounded a bend and ran into the morning sun so bright it obliterated everything else from view.
“Father, when I die, let this be how I go to Heaven. Let me run into the sun on a morning just like this and as I run let it give way to eternity….”
I ran on, deeply in prayer. A short distance before I reached the fork in the trail I neared a bend that was obscured from the view of the homes in the adjoining neighborhood and as I did, a song we sing in church came into my mind.
Angels watching over me…angels watching over me…
“My God,” I prayed, “I believe I am in the palm of your hand. I believe your angels are right here beside me. Let them protect me, strengthen me, sustain me…”
Within seconds, the still of the moment was shattered by the sound of him running straight for me. I must have stopped. I know I screamed. I began backing away from him, screaming still. Then, I looked down and saw the knife in his hand.
“A knife! He has a knife!”
He ran straight towards me with that knife in his hand, then in the very second he was close enough to reach out and grab me, he looked startled and without explanation, turned and ran back up the path that led to our cars.
My heart was pounding, my chest heaving, and I began to run again. I paused, unsure of what to do. If I attempted to reach my car, I knew he could be waiting for me at any place along the trail and I would be trapped between the steep bank of woods and the river’s edge. I knew he could out run me. He was so, so fast. I had no doubt he could overpower me and he was armed.
So, I ran to the fork and took the opposite trail that led into the neighborhood.
And then, I began to cry.
I ran up to a house with cars in the drive and a dog in the yard. I rang the bell, but no one came. I was afraid then. What if he came back?
“God, please let someone open the door…”
I ran across the cul-de-sac and rang another bell. This time a woman answered the door.
“Could I please use your phone to call the police?” I asked.
She let me in and dialed the number for me. Soon, an officer arrived. He asked questions, walked me down to the trail, radioed back and forth, and then surprise crossed his face as he said, “I think we’ve got him…”
He drove me to meet some other officers at my car. I could not stop shaking, but I did not cry again. The sergeant took me to identify the man.
“She doesn’t have to look at me, I did it….”
He came to the trail only for me. He had preyed on so many others in the past, but that day he chose me.
Then, they took me to the police station to give a written statement and talk to the detectives. Everyone was kind.
“What does your husband think of this?” the detective asked.
“He doesn’t know yet,” I replied.
Questions and more questions. Even after they brought me coffee I could not stop shaking. Then, they said I could go.
“Wait,” I told them. “I have something else to say. I don’t know if you are a Christian, but I want to tell you what happened right before he came after me.”
Angels watching over me….
Later that night, I remembered the very last words of my prayer before he tore through the bushes, and into my life.
“My God, reveal yourself to me in this place…”
I was so honored to see the true character of God in that moment. Powerful. Faithful. Good. Loving.
And…He has me, so safely, right in the palm of his hand.