Around 3:00am on December 27, 2011 I had one of the truest moments of clarity and peace I have ever experienced.
I have been around guns since I was a young man. I grew up in Texas, they are just a part of life. My family has hunted for generations. It is a tradition that my great-great-grandfather brought with him from Norway when he came to the United States. My great-grandmother and her tribe were expert hunters of the Texas plains. The Native American’s in Hochatown taught my grandfather how to track. My father taught me.
On that night in December I got a new perspective.
A Night Like Any Other
I was working overnight shifts at a print shop. I’m a night person and loved third shift. We had the run of the place, the music we played was loud, the people were weird, but we got stuff done. Our job was to try and make up as much ground as we could while the phones weren’t ringing.
Five hours in, 3:00am, time for the lunch run. My coworker, Cabrina, and I hop in her truck and decide to head to Wendy’s. Nothing like one of Dave’s Hot ‘N Juicy Triples to get the second half of your evening kicked off right. 73g of pure, beautiful, all beef protein.
I never got that burger.
We pulled up to the drive thru order board, the familiar “Welcome to Wendy’s how can we help you?” came over the speaker. Then a figure in jeans and a dark gray hoodie appeared from behind the menu board and approached the driver’s side window of the truck. The window was rolled down, we were about to order.
“How are you doing?” He said. Then the hooded figure took his hands from the marsupial pouch on the front of his garment and produced a gun. He stuck his arm through the downed crank window. I leaned towards Cabrina’s side.
“Never point a gun at something you don’t intend to kill.”
That’s one of the first things that you learn when you start handling firearms. Until that moment in my life I had never seen the barrel of a gun from that angle. When the end of the weapon touched my forehead, it was so cold I was sure that if it wasn’t fired, it would certainly peel away the first few layers of skin if it was removed.
I’ve never been one to panic or lose my composure, this was no different. There was a calm, a sense of peace and a beautiful clarity in that moment. I truly don’t know how long it lasted, but I can remember everything about that instant.
The skin on his knuckles was cracking. The creases where the dermis stretches and contracts were filled with dirt. I don’t think he could have gripped the gun any tighter or extend his arm any further.
The gun shook against my head. I could feel the heavily gelled hair that made up my mohawk jerking as my movements were now controlled by the blued-steel tip of his pistol.
The truck was in drive, but I didn’t want to say anything because Cabrina was covered in sweat. She had leaned back to let him in through the window. She was frozen, both her feet planted firmly on the brake pedal embedding her body into the seat.
My life didn’t flash before my eyes, no list of regrets or of all the loved ones I might never say goodbye to. It was surreal. It simply seemed for a moment that all that existed was my skull, the wind biting at my ears and the frigid barrel of that gun.
I despise a lot of churchy type sayings, but there are many that I have found them to be true over the course of my life. I had an overwhelming peace. Tonight is not my night. I thought. Jesus keep us safe and get us out of this.
“Give me your wallets! THIS ISN’T A F#$%ING JOKE! Wallets and cellphones now!”
Cabrina gave him her wallet, a brand new Coach wallet that she had received as a Christmas gift the day before.
I reached into my back pocket, into my wallet and I felt the stub of the plane ticket I had used days earlier when I was visiting a friend on the East Coast. I handed it to him.
He used the firearm to shove my head back towards my seat.
“She just picked me up from the airport and they lost all my luggage. We just want to get home.”
He threw the ticket back into the truck, “I can’t do anything with this!” His arm was now resting inside the truck, cavalierly placed near the door handle on the inside of Cabrina’s door.
His grip on the gun had loosened. The color was coming back into his hand and the veins were beginning to gently protrude as blood flow began to return. He took his hood off with his left hand and wrung his messy brown hair as though he was being overtaken with anxiety.
His dark empty eyes met mine for a moment. He slammed his hands against the truck and then jogged off into the wooded area on the west side of the restaurant.
Cabrina shouted at the menu board waiting for a response. They had to have heard all that. They surely watched it all take place on the drive thru camera.
We made our way around to the window. Three employees, none closer than 10 feet from the window stared at us. Cabrina rapped on the window, “Did you see that? Did you see what just happened?” They didn’t move a muscle. They were like statues whose expression was utter disbelief.
I leaned over and pointed to the camera above the drive thru register. “They saw it, they’re freaked out, let’s go, kiddo”
Cabrina called 911. The robber hadn’t taken our cell phones. She was calm when she was talking to the dispatcher, I was proud of her. We circled around and waited in a parking lot that was a good distance from the scene of the robbery.
I texted our co-worker, Jackson, who was waiting on dinner back at the print facility to let him know that we were running a little behind.
The officers showed up about 10 minutes after the call. They said the officers in our area were already on another call. “It’s that time of year” they told us.
They separated us when we gave our statements. The officer laughed when I told him that I gave the guy that plane ticket, but said that he didn’t think they’d be able to get any fingerprints off of it and I should keep it as a good luck charm.
They gave us a case number and told us not to expect anything. We didn’t which was good because nothing came of it.
Cabrina asked if I would tell Jackson what happened and asked that we not talk about it any more. We worked through the rest of the night. Cabrina hardly spoke.
Back to Reality
Cabrina was out for the following week, and requested to be moved to days.
A couple of days later our boss, Rob, called me into his office. Rob is a good man and a strong believer in Jesus. He was always very fair in his dealings with his employees, a little abrasive at times, but never malicious.
He worked in the fashion industry for years, formal wear was his speciality. Needless to say he wasn’t always a fan of the Harley Davidson t-shirts I wore to work.
“You should try wearing something with buttons,” he would always tell me.
Our conversation was short, he heard from Jackson what happened and when Cabrina called in the first night he told her he knew about the ordeal and that she could take some time. He wanted to know why I hadn’t said anything to him.
“I don’t really know.” I replied, “I guess, I just figured it was my stuff and I had to figure out how to deal with it. I felt like if I didn’t come back to work that somehow that meant that my fear was winning. As a matter of fact two nights later I went back to the Wendy’s. I had to face it and remind myself that there is no power in that place. It was just a freak thing. I mean I had a big gun in the car with me when I did and I didn’t order anything, but I did go back.”
Rob smiled came around the desk, shook my hand and gave me a hug.
“God’s got His hand on you kid. Keep your head up and try not to do anything too stupid. Hold on to Jeremiah 29:11-13”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
That verse was a tremendous encouragement to me.
The Importance of Perspective
I come from a family of hunters and sport shooters. We aren’t golfers, we go shoot skeet on the courses at Elm Fork for fun. We’re a little redneck that way sometimes.
I have a friend that thinks we should throw all our guns into the ocean, obviously that’s not me, but hear my heart on this. Perspective is a powerful thing. In a discussion with this friend of mine this statement was made:
“Luke, if you had a gun to your head your perspective would be totally different. You wouldn’t ever want anyone to have a gun again. You’d be as passionately against it as the rest of us with brains are.”
I ignored the tone and the accusation of my brainlessness and calmly and softly said to him “But I have had a gun to my head. I know that feeling.” And recanted to him the story I just shared with you. That while the gun was to my head things were surreal, but during the drive home, when I got to my house and sat on my bed my mind was flooded with the thoughts of all the people I cared about and loved and what could have happened.
The “what ifs” wrecked my dreams for days upon days. They were haunting. They were scary and I didn’t want to go to sleep.
He was stunned “Dude, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know, I…”
“It’s okay, man,” I told him. Here’s the thing, he wasn’t trying to offend me, he wanted to make his point. He wasn’t trying to be hurtful, he simply didn’t know.
I’m not going to get on a big soap box here about our culture of offense that we have adopted except to say this: Offense is something that is taken, not something that is given.
There are a lot of debates across this country right now over a great many things. This isn’t a post advocating firearms, it’s about perspective. We are so passionate about our points of view, and we should be, we should be passionate, but we must consider the cost of our words and tactics.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love.
So often our passionate and abrasive delivery is so pointed at those that hold another opinion, we want it to offend them, we want it to sting, we want them to know how ridiculous we think their argument is. Our freedom of speech and freedom to rant on social media, have recently become the things that are causing the greatest rifts in our relationships.
We are called to deal with one another with humility and gentleness. That means we worry less about being heard and more about the person we are engaged in conversation with.
There is a slim chance that my friend and I will ever agree on the nation’s gun policy and that’s okay. A good friend of mine once told me: “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.” Now I wouldn’t quite take it that far, but the point he makes is fair.
It’s important that we deal with one another in humility instead of everyone assuming from their high horse that we are all speaking from the moral high ground. Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Love. Just because we don’t agree on something does not mean that we are one another’s enemy.
We each have our own unique perspectives that shape and mold the way that we think. Our backgrounds and past experiences create for us the lens with which we view the world. Don’t be of the belief that yours is superior or more righteous than someone else’s.
You’re going to see a post on Facebook, a tweet, a story on CNN, or overhear something at the coffee shop that’s going to get your fired up and passionate, before you respond consider Ephesians 4:2.
- How can I respond in humility?
- How can I reply with gentleness?
- How can I be patient and considerate?
- How can I prove to be loving to both those I agree and disagree with?
If you really want to engage someone that you disagree with and have to chance to change their perspective, it isn’t going to come from a raised voice, a post with CAPS LOCK on, or a response filled with insults, outlining how disappointed you are. We must have a desire to participate in conversation that is meaningful and honest. We must not be scrutinizing the words of others searching for something to be offended by.
It’s a good and healthy thing for people to disagree. Our differences are what make us stronger together. The variance of our perspectives, that is what makes us valuable to one another. Unity will only come from understanding and our ability to display the fruits of the spirit, to deal with one another with humility, gentleness, patience and love.
Come visit us this Saturday at 5:30pm or Sunday at 10:45am as we continue to explore the Book of Matthew.