It was November of 1996. I am horrible with dates, but I won’t ever forget that one. The governor of Mississippi had got himself into trouble after a car accident revealed he had been traveling out of state to spend some time with a woman who was not his wife. It was all over the news. And I just happened to be watching the news that night. I rarely watch the news, but the governor’s scandal was intriguing and I was alone, trying to decide if I should just go to bed.
My roommate and I had been out most of the evening. We had been at a Bible study outside of the city of Jackson, led by a woman who was a friend to many people in our church community. She had a beautiful home by a lake and would open it up to all of us for a night of teaching and good snacks. I should probably tell you that I have good memories of our studies there but all I can really remember about her place was that Matthew McConaughey stayed next door when he was filming A Time to Kill. Yes, of course we peaked in the windows.
You know, the really important details.
We returned after nine pm to our West Jackson apartment. My roommate had some writing to do at the office so she grabbed her keys and headed out for a bit. I plopped onto the sofa in the living area and flipped through the channels until I settled on the evening news. As I watched the latest on the governor’s gossip, I began to hear what sounded like papers crunching and blowing around in my bedroom. My bedroom was just down the hall. The noises made me think, I must have left my fan on while we were gone. My room was a mess and there were stacks of papers and stuff everywhere. But no, no, I remembered. I had not left the fan on. I knew this for sure because I had decided not to cool the room down using the fan but had opened my bedroom window instead.
But the paper noises continued. And as I began to notice the pattern, I realized there really wasn’t one.
Just papers, crunching.
Just house noises I told myself. Back to the news. But even as I watched the television the adrenaline had begun to kick in. My senses were heightened and while I tried to tell myself i was fine, I listened again for noises.
There they were. More papers crunching.
So the fan wasn’t on and I had just left my window open, what could it….
MY WINDOW OPEN.
I had left my window open.
My first floor bedroom window.
Now if your following along with this story, you will know I had every bit of info I needed to grab the phone and call a friend. Or just go across the courtyard to a friend’s apartment in our complex. That would have been logical. But I was still unconvinced.
My heart was racing. The adrenaline was pumping.
So I decided to do the only thing I felt would make this feeling go away. Go to bed.
I’ll just sleep it off, I thought. I know I can have an active imagination. I have lived in high crime areas for most of my life and have rarely been scared. This was home and I just needed to shake it off. So I hit the power button on the remote and stood to walk toward my bedroom.
I wish I could just post a layout of our place, but words will have to do. The living room was connected to the kitchen and I could see into there, nothing. There was a doorway right next to the television that lead to the hallway where our two bedrooms and the bathroom were. I headed to the doorway. And even though I had told myself I was fine and that nothing was wrong, I was hesitant. My movements were slow and calculated. I was still listening for noises. But it was just quiet now.
As I approached the hallway, I peeked my head around the corner towards my bedroom door. Ever so slowly I extended my head around the bend to peer into the darkened spaces.
And just as my body had told me.
Just as my heart knew all along.
A stranger stood in my bedroom doorway.
It’s amazing what happens to you when danger is staring you down. You don’t even make a decision; you fight for your life.
Let me tell you right now that I got away that night. I got away without a single physical scratch. I knew I had Protection that I couldn’t see. I believed in angels at that moment. I turned and ran towards the front door and the moment I hit the fresh air, I began to scream. And scream. And scream. One of the things I will never forget is how I went hoarse that night from screaming. I screamed until I had nothing left. I darted across the courtyard and up the steps. I pounded on our friend’s door and as I pounded and pled for them to open, I finally turned around.
There he was.
Still standing in the doorway of our apartment. I can still see his silhouette.
Our friends were home and I found a safe haven. The police were called, my roommate was called, my parents were called, more friends were called. A new home was found for us that night. The police found nothing. Nothing except for a messy bedroom (which was my mess and my savior.) He had only taken my purse on his way out the door. Joke’s on him, take the purse of a young, broke college student and you’ll get just what you deserve. Nothing.
It took me years to be able to sleep alone in a house without the terror of that night overwhelming me. I would have panic attacks where I ran out of an empty house to sit on the lawn until someone else came home. But time heals and I have received so much peace since then.
What did I learn that night?
I learned that I was better off without a weapon. You may disagree, and that’s ok. But if I had owned a gun, it would have easily been used against me that night. Or I would have shot and killed that man. Both, horrible outcomes that would have changed life drastically.
I learned that your body is created to tell you when something is wrong. When your heart races and the adrenaline bursts, don’t ignore it. You are being told to be AWARE.
I learned that community is what it’s all about. I had such amazing friends who rallied around me. Friends who opened their door that night. Friends who let us sleep over that night. Friends that moved us out of that apartment. Friends that started a community house with us where I felt so safe. Friends who loved me through my panicked moments. A community that held me.
I learned that the police can be amazing. Not only did they show up and take good care of us They saw from things around our apartment that we were Christians. And a policeman whose name I no longer remember, recited Psalm 121 to me. I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
I learned that you will fight for your life when it comes down to it. I was able to get away that night, but I knew in my heart I would have never just given in, or given up. We are created to want to live.
And the biggest lesson I learned that night was a lesson of common sense. Common sense is the best protector of all. When you leave your house and you live in an area that is known for crime-
Always shut the windows.