I remember leaving church that Sunday night feeling as close to the Lord as I had since I was first saved more than a year before. It was our second or third week in a six week premarital course we had enrolled in, little more than a month into our engagement. We had gone to the service that morning as well, and I just felt like every second of that day, the Spirit was present. From the worship songs, to the message itself, to the lunch and fellowship at my parents, right up to the advice we received in class, it was a great Sunday. It was early January, so as we walked into the cold night towards the car, I was nearly giddy I was filled so much. A classic mountain top moment. My fiancé and I climbed in the car and discussed further what we went over in class, and I felt an overwhelming sense of certainty that this is where I was made to be. In this relationship with this woman, preparing to get married at this church. We made a quick pit stop at a gas station, and I had to add some fluids to the engine, and after dropping my fiancé off at her apartment, I headed back to my apartment.
As I laid in bed, reflecting on this most perfect day, I began to get a strange sinking feeling of sadness. It came as I began to realize that this mountain top moment would not last long. This perfect synergy I felt with the Spirit would start to wan as I woke up Monday morning and started another week of work, recreation, wedding planning and life in general. This happened every Sunday. I would experience the highest highs during the services, leave, enter the world, and life would gradually drain the glow of the spirit out of me until I got a new fill the following Sunday. And each Sunday, I would vow to not let that happen. And each Monday, I would desperately strive to get back to that mountain top. I remember distinctly praying that night, and the following morning, Lord, please allow me to experience this closeness every moment of every day with You. Please change something in me, and keep that fire I feel at times burning for You at all times.
This particular Monday was a not a typical one. My company was hosting an offsite meeting for my department to review last years progress and lay out this years goal. After the meeting ended with a big reveal (a company wide trip at years end), we all went back to our respective posts at the office and carried out business as usual. Closing time rolled around, and I headed out into the crisp winter night to my car. Now, I feel it's imperative to mention the fact that my work building is located in a less than desirable part of a fairly dangerous town. The actual work premises are quite safe, as we have a large complex and a separate entrance ramp onto the highway, but the surrounding streets and neighborhoods are nowhere you want to be caught alone after sundown. Or before sundown for that matter. But I digress. I got in my car and started it. Or attempted to. I gave a sad little cough at first, than turned over with a great whine, and the whole car rattled. Being the expert in the field of mechanics that I am, I knew immediately that this wasn't how my car normally started. So, my expertise told me to turn the car off and start again. So I did. And it started normally. Problem solved, great job Chris, now let's start the drive home (in case you don't recognize the sarcasm by this point, I know nothing about cars, and the entire engine could've have fallen out at this point, and I wouldn't have noticed). As I pulled onto the entrance ramp to the highway, I called my fiancé to let her know I was headed home. Our conversation was interrupted by a loud clang from the bottom of my car. Again, my expert training told me, something was wrong. I told her I had to go, something is wrong with the car, I'll call you back. I hung up the phone, just as I lost power steering and the car ceased accelerating. Great, I thought, I going to stranded in the middle of the highway. But wait, there was a exit just before entering the highway that led back to a residential street that I hadn't passed yet, so I wrestled the car in that direction. Better to be stranded on a street than I highway, I thought. Safer. I made it to the base of the ramp before conking out, and I sat gathering my thoughts. I quickly came to the conclusion that, since it was 730 pm on a winter night and it was quite dark here at the base of the ramp, this was probably not the safer place either. Cars whipping down the ramp may not see me, and plow into me. So I managed to start the car, and somehow get it across the street to park it curbside.
My mechanics intuition kicked in, and I thought of the fluids I had put in the night before. One was power steering fluid. I lost power steering capabilities before my car died, there must be a link! I remember seeing a line on the power steering pump that clearly stated 'do not fill past this line ' . I also remembered it being dark when I filled the pump, so there was about a 100% chance I had overfilled it. Easy fix, drain some fluid out now, get it back to the line it's supposed to be at, and viola, a working car. I had a roll of paper towels in the trunk, so I devised a plan where I would stick the absorbent papers into the pump, soak some of the fluid up, and drive away unscathed. Twenty minutes and a plastic bag full of power steering fluid soaked paper towels later, my car was still just as dead as ever. My brother was a real mechanic, so I decided it was time to give him a call. As fate would have it, my phones battery was now critically low. But I called him, explained what was happening, and he suggested it was a broken belt. Look at this section of the engine, he said, see if you see this belt. Since it was dark and I was on a poorly lit street, I needed my phone light to see what he was talking about. I put him on speaker phone, leaned over he engine to glance around, and promptly dropped the phone into the engine. Of course it landed face down, so I could no longer see the light, and of course, a few seconds later, the battery died, so I couldn't use his voice to guide me any longer. I did locate the broken belt, pulled it out, but I was pretty sure the phone in the engine thing wasn't going to make my car run. I had to get it. I had no idea where it was, and after several futile minutes of searching blindly around the engine block, I had only managed to feel the very edge of the phone, and then knock it further out of reach. Time for drastic measures. I was on a residential street, but residents of this city didn't have the best reputation, but I had no other choice. I knocked on the first door I saw with a light on, and asked the woman who answered for a flashlight. Thank God, she had one. I used it to find the phone, managed to grab it, and thanked her profusely.
I needed to regroup. As I climbed into my car, I had a fleeting thought. Really, Lord? After this great spirit filled weekend I had, this is what you saw fit to put me through today? I threw that thought out quickly, and thought of my next move. I turned to cars accessories on, and plugged my phone into its charger. Better call my fiancé, let her know what is going on, and maybe see if I can use her Triple-A membership to get out of this jam. We talked for about a minute and I started to look for something to write down her membership number with. As I looks through my center console for a pen, I heard a deafening CRACK on my driver side window.
My heart jumped into my throat, and I quickly turned to see what the noise was. A shadowy figure stood outside the window. I couldn't make out his face, or his clothes, or what my fiancé was saying on the phone or anything other than what he held in his hand. The heart that had just jumped into my throat quickly dropped into the pit of stomach. Every hair on my body stood up raising goose flesh I had never felt before. My heart stopped beating, my breath caught in my throat, and my eyes froze on what was pointed directly at my face. They say life flashes before your eyes at moments like this, but it doesn't. In the movies, this is where the music crescendos, but it didn't. Nothing flashed, nothing moved, nothing made a sound. Everything stopped. My heart, my breath, my thoughts, my instincts. My whole world was reduced to this one second, and every energy I had was drained by the realization that my life was one quarter inch of tempered glass away from being over. That second lasted forever, and when it ended, time resumed in hyperspeed. Before I knew what was happening, the car door was open, he was grabbing the keys from the ignition, unplugging my phone, cutting my fiancé, oblivious to the situation I was now in, off mid conversation, and demanding more. I scrambled for my wallet and handed it to him. What else, what else, he growled. Nothing I said, and surprised my self with the calmness of my voice. I have nothing else. Get out, he demanded, lay on the ground. The gun was 6 inches from my head and I stood up, with surprisingly unshaking legs. I said lay down, count to sixty, he yelled, and I crouched, back to him and waited. For what, I wasn't sure. I held my breath, clinched my eyes shut, and prayed the only prayer I could muster. Lord, save me.
I heard his footsteps quickly retreating in the opposite direction, but I didn't dare move until I was sure 60 seconds was up. I stood, glanced around, and looked skyward as I let out the longest breath ever. Thank you, Lord, thank you! Still in a remarkably calm state, I assessed my options. I knocked on the same house I borrowed the flashlight from, borrowed their phone and called the police. I filed a report when an officer responded, and he asked me if I needed to call anyone else. I called my fiancé, and as I spoke with her, that calm state I had been in since the experience started shattered. I began shaking and crying as I thought of how close I had been to never speaking with her again, how close we had been to not experiencing the joys of marriage. I couldn't bear the thought of her receiving a different pone call, from this officer, if things had turned out much worse. We sorted everything out, had the car towed to the office, my fiancé came and picked me up, and we headed home.
As the shock and the adrenaline of what had perspired that night wore off, and I lay in bed, I started taking inventory of what I had lost. I realized it was virtually nothing. My phone he had taken was old and the battery dead; worthless. The keys were to a broken down car that was now sitting safely in a guarded parking lot; nothing there. The wallet had no cash, and the credit cards were all canceled before I even got home that night; complete strike out. Sure, I had to take the next day off work to fix the car and get a new phone and license, but all in all he got nothing from me. I began to pray, but was interrupted by the thought of what my prayer was the night before. I had asked the Lord to please change something in me to help me experience closeness to Him. I smiled, and almost laughed when I realized that's exactly what had happened that night. That feeling I longed for was so often interrupted and snuffed out by the distractions of our modern world. The desire was often replaced by the desire to indulge in things life had to offer. And tonight, He took that all away showed me that when that's gone, there is only one thing left. Him. My dependence on technology was crushed when my car and phone failed me. My striving for status and wealth was taken when I lost my money and identity. What I had done in past, what I planned to do in my future, none of that mattered at that one moment when I looked potential death in the face. I was useless. I could do nothing to save my own life. I escaped for one reason only. Because He allowed me to. At that moment, I had been closer to the Lord than ever before. Wow, God, wow. I was once again filled with that feeling I felt at church the day before. That the Spirit was present.
I rolled over and slept peacefully that night. And that feeling isn't so quick to fade anymore.