I guess this is kind of a ThrowBack Thursday thing. As you will understand, I don’t have pictures.
I got involved in a lighthearted exchange on Facebook that brought back some memories…in one sense not the most pleasant of memories and, in another sense, one of those Mighty Acts of God memories that you ought to hang on to for a lifetime.
It was, I think, December…probably after Christmas. I don’t remember the year, but it had to have been somewhere from 2004 – 2007. We were living in Orlando while I was attending Reformed Theological Seminary. We were on our way back to Texas to see some old friends we had left, and I think I was supposed to be preaching at a church in the Houston area.
We had been given a dog, a wonderful miniature French poodle named Cyril. Because we had Cyril we had to stay at a hotel that would let us have a pet in the room. That ended up being a Best Western in Tallahassee, just off of Interstate 10 on US 90, on the east side of town.
We pulled in a little before sunset. We got checked in and parked, and Jean and the kids took the dog for a walk. I got out, and there was a pretty cheerful black guy standing there, smoking a cigarette. He was wearing a baseball cap, t-shirt and baggy shorts. Nothing unusual.
I noticed that I had parked in front of the wrong room, got in and moved the Suburban a couple of spaces, got out, and now Mr. Baggy-shorts was holding a .38 Special instead of a cigarette. He explained to me that he was on drugs (the term he used isn’t necessary to the story) and if I didn’t give him enough money he was going to take my daughter and keep her until I went to an ATM and obtained a sum sufficient. I leaned back into the vehicle, rifled my wife’s purse, handed him some cash.
It was surreal, in a way. At one point in time my wife looked over from the other side of the parking lot, saw what was happening and called out “Tom, are we being robbed?” I, of course, answered in the affirmative and told her to stay where she was. My son apparently offered to go to the convenience store and call the police, though not so loudly as to be heard where I was.
Anyway…satisfied that he had enough cash to support his drug habit, Mr. Baggy-shorts told me and my family to go to the other end of the parking lot, he walked through a hallway to the other side of the building and he was gone.
Now…the thing that brings this whole thing to mind for publication is something I said to my wife last night. I told her that I had never felt more firmly in Christ’s hands than during that incident. That guy in the hat and baggy shorts, with a .38, may have been caught up in the randomness of his sin…but I had no thought that I was caught up in some randomness of events. Throughout I was firmly aware that God had His hand firmly on that gun, and everything else. It is a thing worth remembering.
And as I consider, I wonder…why is it that looking down the barrel of a .38 I could be fully conscious of God being in sovereign control, but that in the day to day of my life and ministry I so frequently live and act as if that were not the case?
I need to think about that.