I wrote this post a few weeks ago, right after it happened, but because of all the posts I already had set to go, this didn't post until today.
I stood up to three thugs tonight or I should say that I stood with a girl they were harassing.
I was in line at the grocery store buying a cart full of groceries for our upcoming camping trip. Between Dwayne and I, I am the one with the most experience navigating the grocery store isles with a time crunch and it was late, so I was there alone while Dwayne was home putting the kids to bed.
A teenage girl came up behind me at the register. She really didn't even look old enough to drive and I noticed this. She was buying snacks, goldfish crackers and fruit punch.
Three guys came up behind her. They were so close to her they seemed to be with her. But, their carts were empty. They seemed to be following her, so I assumed they were all together...
until I noticed how uncomfortable she looked.
One of them kept talking to her. The others just smirked. She tried to brush him off, looking at her phone as if making a call, trying to make eye contact and engage in conversation with the cashier. The one guy talking was getting closer and closer to her and at one point, standing so close that his chest touched her arm. I wondered if she knew him. She must know him, right? But no. He was obviously a stranger to her by the way she bristled and looked near panic. Did anyone else see what was happening?
He said he needed directions. She gave them. He asked her where she was parked. She told him. He asked what her name was and what door she'd be coming out of, and to all this she told him the answers. She was obviously very, very young.
A manager picked up on what was going on, noticed how young the girl was and said, "I'll help you guys on this isle" in a forceful tone, pointing to the next isle over. The two other guys moved towards that isle and said "That's alright..." giving some explanation as to why they had nothing to buy.
The cashier also noticed what was going on, but pursed her lips and looked smug. She probably thought, "If this girl is stupid enough to tell him where she's parked, she deserves to be harassed." But, I could tell the girl was just desperate to give him whatever he wanted so he'd go away.
I had finished in plenty of time to just leave the store, but I pulled my cart forward, really exaggerating the limp I had because of my injury and pretending to organize the change in my wallet. I felt responsible for her.
The one pushy guy noticed me there and looked back and forth between the girl and I as if questioning whether or not we were together. He'd taken her for being alone, obviously. But, he figured we weren't together after all, which was correct, and said to her, "Well, okay. I'll just wait for you outside... I want to talk." with a glance back at me to see if I was looking. I was trying to make it look like I wasn't.
He left the store with his friends in a hurry and I, like the girl, was hoping that was the end of it. She finished paying for her stuff then and started walking to the door slowly, cautiously. I closed my wallet and put it away and decided to follow her at a distance. The door she was walking toward wasn't the door I needed to exit out of to be closest to my car, but I felt compelled to make sure the whole thing was over before leaving her "alone." She still didn't know I was "with" her, officially. But, at this point, I decided to commit myself to her and entrust us both to God. I felt like God was telling me to "just stand with her."
When I finally caught up to the door and the girl, she'd been "trapped" outside. The two guys had pulled their car up to the curb just as she had come out the door and were hanging out the windows. If she tried to go by them, they could just move the car forward to cut her off. The one guy was standing right up against her again, this time really forcing an intimacy she obviously didn't want.
I stopped my cart behind her and pretended to remember something and started looking for my cell phone under my shopping bags. When I found it at the bottom of the cart, because I had put it there as I entered the store, I dug a little more than I needed to to get it out, taking as much time as possible. I dialed Dwayne's number. I was tempted to go ahead and call the cops, but the situation hadn't escalated... yet and I was close enough to the men for them to hear me, especially if I started answering questions like "Stop and Shop on Wolcott Road" and "a black Mercedes."
I heard the guy say things to her like "I'm in town for a few days and I was hoping... Can I call you? Why not? Come on, now..." I didn't catch much of what she said to him, but I did hear her say once in a quivering voice, "I need to go home." She was clearly terrified.
I noticed the guy was old enough to be her father. His "friends" in the car were much younger, probably early twenties. The girl was definitely only sixteen or seventeen. She probably wasn't comfortable telling a man who looked like her dad, whose hair was even graying a little, to shove off.
By now, Dwayne had answered and I was trying to talk to him and tell him what was happening in a very, very quiet voice, all the while making the phone call look very casual, like I just happened to be standing right there and that moment.
But, by now, the guys in the car had spotted me and were obviously afraid of who I had called. They were up to no good and they knew it. They just wondered if I had caught on to that, too. There had been just enough harassment that a stranger like me could be calling the police, if I was paying enough attention. But, they weren't sure I was aware of what they were doing yet.
They seemed to have more sense than their friend, though, even though they were half his age. I took advantage of this. I glanced down at their tags and let them see my eyes go there. I kept my eyes on their car while I talked to Dwayne, so they'd wonder, just enough, if I was admiring their car? or telling the 911 operator what it looked like? They couldn't tell. I didn't want them to get angry and defensive. I just wanted them to get worried that once I noticed what was going on, I could be a witness or an ally to this girl. What they didn't know is that I was already doing just that. I knew my presence was making them uncomfortable.
They started to tell their friend to "Give up!" and "Come on!" and say things like "He's too old for you." The one guy didn't want to leave. This poor girl was terrified and desperate. She was easy prey, so he started to resent my presence, realizing that I was the one making his friends so uncomfortable.
"Is she with you?!" he yelled the girl in anger, flashing a challenging glance at me. It was the first time he let his voice unveil his true intentions. She shrunk at his yell, turned her head to me while her body stayed stiff and made a gesture like she had no idea who I was. He looked at me in scorn and pushed his chest out like he was willing to shove me. He was trying to intimidate me, just in case the hints his friends were giving him were right on and I was somehow trying to stand up to him. But, I didn't budge. I looked right at him, then at the girl. I considered answering his question, quite forcefully in fact, but I felt God's Spirit restrain me. God told me it was okay for this man to believe that I was ignorant. He didn't have to know that I knew what he planned. I just had to stand there and make things difficult for him. I felt the peace of God within me controlling the situation. So, I looked away from him and kept talking to Dwayne like I just happened to be standing there.
The guy was foolish enough to fall for my act. And, my presence, like God told me, was once again enough to put him off his plans. He allowed the girl to push her cart by him. But, he got in the car and told his friends to follow her, thinking he'd get her alone at her car for sure. I kept my eyes shifting from driver to the passenger to the car to their license, so they would see me, but also kept talking to Dwayne like nothing serious was going on.
When the girl had moved her cart about ten feet in front of me, I started pushing my cart then and kept exaggerating my limp again, too. I followed in the exact path her cart took, walking straight towards her, half-pretending to be parked right next to her. I knew the guys wouldn't know where I was parked. They'd consider how unlikely it must be that I was parked next to the girl. The chances were slim, but it was possible. So, they stalked around the parking lot for a few seconds, but when I was still on the phone, still looking at their car, still moving in the girl's direction, the driver of the car decided to leave nothing to chance and he took control of the situation and sped off.
At that point, the girl realized I had stayed with her on purpose. There were no cars anywhere near hers, so it was obvious. She looked at me and said, "Thanks." I said, "I could tell they had bad intentions..." and a few other things, casual, to make her laugh and shake off the adrenaline. She wanted to get out of there, just in case they came back and I respected that, so I limped to my car, this time with less effect.
I thanked God for how things had gone down and for His obvious guidance and control over the situation. I was ready to speak up to those thugs, but for some reason, I kept my mouth shut and just stood with her like God told me.
I sought the Lord about this, prayed and read the Bible later that night, asking if He would give me specific insight into what happened and why He had lead me to remain so quiet. When it was over, I also, naturally, wished I had been carrying my firearm, which I have a legal permit though the state of Connecticut to do. I wondered if this impulse to have a weapon was from God or did it come from my own flesh? Would I have been able to move in the Spirit of God like I did and depend on His guidance like I had, and still have had a gun on me? just in case the situation had gotten really bad? I went to bed without answers, but I woke me up in the middle of the night, couldn't go back to sleep and sensed God's Spirit saying it was time to deal with Him.
I opened my Bible at random and believe it or not, my eyes fell on this passage right away. Jesus is talking to his disciples and says, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything? They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one."
That answered my question about my gun. I believe these verses spoken by Christ Jesus himself illustrate how it is acceptable to God for a Christian to carry a weapon even as he or she goes forward to do the will of God. We spiritual people know, perhaps better than any, that we will face not only supernatural evil but also real evil in this world that has been given over to Satan and a very legitimate, very practical need to defend ourselves (and even defend others, on occasion) may arise.
But, we can also be confident that even if we have no weapon, we lack nothing. God is with us and He is enough ...unless the guy pulls a gun on us and all we have is our shopping bags. No really, in all seriousness, I can't say that I will cling my firearm. I've never done that. I've always depended on God for my safety. But, I think I will continue to feel free to carry a weapon for defense if I feel the need. Because of this passage of Scripture, I think it is clear that trusting in God fully for protection while also carrying a weapon "just in case" are not mutually exclusive things. One can do both.
I read a little more, nothing popped off the page for a while. But, I persistently asked God to give me more explanation. I knew His Spirit had reason for why I was lead to be quiet. Eventually, I found these verses,
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes."
At first glance, the verses seem to contradict each other. But, set against the backdrop of what happened at the grocery store, they make perfect sense to me now.
If I had spoken up and said, "Yeah, I'm with her! Leave her alone, you punks!" I would have been acting foolishly, just like the punks I would have been telling off at that point. That would have emboldened the one man and probably his friends, too, and they would have become very angry and even more aggressive. You can imagine what would have happened. "Answer a fool... and you will be like him."
But, if the man had been bold enough to actually grab her arm and try and force the girl into the car while I was standing there, well, I would definitely have needed to speak up. Otherwise, the men would have thought I was just as bad as they were for not standing up to them in their sin. "Answer him... or he will be wise in his own eyes."
And, so it is fools. Dealing with them while they are in the midst of their stupidity or wickedness is pretty tricky business. You can't speak too soon or they will blow up on you, but, at other times, you have to stand up to them and say something!!! I liked the explanation of these verses from the 1599 Geneva Study Bible "Consent not to a fool in his doings."
I am so grateful for the Lord's guidance to me that night at the store. But, even more than that, I am grateful for His faithful explanation of it all later on.
"You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13