It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly scared. You know–hands trembling, what in the world should I do next, I just might throw up…kind of scared. And yet that’s exactly where I found myself this week and I’d do just about anything NOT to feel that way ever again. That’s why I’m writing this…to help me process what happened, but also to remind each one of us (and women in particular) to mind that little voice–it’s our God-given intuition…the gift of fear.
Let me start at the beginning…the very beginning (bear with me here.) While Oprah Winfrey and I have been on the outs for several years (LOL), I was at one time a huge fan and watched her show as regularly as any college aged kid could without purposefully arranging their class schedule. One day I happened to catch an episode that honestly changed that way I live my life. Oprah was featuring an author and security issues specialist named Gavin de Becker. You may recall that many of the show’s episodes centered around empowering women and his book titled “The Gift of Fear” focused on the importance of trusting your gut because so often intuition is our best guide (and sometimes our only hope) in alarming situations! This isn’t a religious or faith-based book, but I read it as further confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in our everyday lives. I took his advice and suggestions to heart for a number of reasons…1) I am a small person, young (at the time) and female…all of which could make me an easy mark, 2) the advice was practical and empowering, and 3) I felt like intuition was a God-given gift that had served me well in the past. I believe this book crossed my path for a reason and since 1997 it has never been far from my mind.
Having lived in small and large communities, frequenting cities and as a traveler in general, I make it a point to be aware of my surroundings. Being a news junkie doesn’t hurt (it’s a crazy world out there, right?) I will admit…I may be a little high-strung when it comes to personal safety, but like I mentioned before I think the advice in this book (the validation that comes from trusting your gut) has proven itself on at least a handful of occasions in my life. I can immediately recall a few scary situations where I put the tools from the book into practice…like while viewing an apartment with a questionable potential landlord, parking on a side street with my infant son and walking at night in the Bay Area, and being approached by an overly aggressive woman asking for money in a Dillon’s parking lot in Wichita. In each of these scenarios that little voice spoke and the advice from the book came back into focus.
This isn’t a fun subject. As women, this is a weight that we carry. Men don’t fear for their personal safety like we do. For years I dwelt on the fact that this just didn’t seem fair. It affects my life everyday. I’m careful about where I park, I’m overprotective of my kids, I try to assess every situation. But I must confess: I do get lazy. I’m guilty of letting my guard down and it frustrates me. This is part of the reason for this blog post.
Yesterday, while making a stop at a local store in my small town I was followed into the building by a strange man. I noticed him immediately. His demeanor seemed shifty and he was with a woman who did not enter the store, but instead waited just outside the main entrance. The guy followed me as I went searching for two unrelated items on opposite ends of the store. My antenna went up. I thought it was odd that he turned down the same wrong aisle I turned into. He made his way into the cleaning supplies aisle where I was and never looked at anything or picked anything up. When I zig-zagged through the store in a an attempt to lose him he continued to follow, my mind was racing. Imagine my surprise when this guy appeared to be looking directly at me from the jewelry section. I again changed course immediately. I needed to get out of this store! I purchased my one item (having abandoned the need for the other item) and made my way to the exit…with him about 10 steps behind. He had purchased nothing in the store. Even as I type this my mind is trying to rationalize his behavior. The urge to be “nice,” to not be so suspicious, and to dismiss my uneasiness keeps creeping into my thoughts even at this very moment. “Oh, he probably just needed some help. You’re overreacting. He wasn’t trying to scare you. You let your imagination run wild.” NO. I heard God’s voice whisper to me. I have no doubt about that. I make no apologies for responding to my intuition.
The thing that gets me, though, is that the little flutter in my stomach first occurred before I entered the parking lot that day. As I crossed the intersection to get to the store I clearly heard a whisper that said, “You don’t want to go there.” But I didn’t listen. I just wanted to pick up two items and go. “What’s the big deal?” I told myself. When I parked the car, I noticed that things didn’t feel right. I still went in. I want to be the kind of person who believe in the goodness of mankind, but I have to remember that this is a broken world. I have to remember to trust the voice.
As I scrambled to get out of the store, I called my husband and let him know what was going on. I had my keys ready. My gut tried to soothe my panic by telling me that I was doing everything right. I couldn’t get to the car fast enough. As I pulled away, I saw the guy standing outside the store scanning the parking lot. Look, I live in a small, safe community. My intention here is NOT to scare anyone, but I will not discount what I felt. I refuse to disqualify that voice.
Ladies, if you have not heard of this book…please consider getting your hands on a copy. We need to know that it’s okay (in fact, it’s wise) to listen to our intuition. It doesn’t make us unkind, not nice or even hateful to look after yourself or your loved ones. I’m not saying we should walk around on edge all the time or believe that at any moment something horrific could happen to us. I just want to remind myself and others to trust God more fully and to be open to his nudging in all that we do and everywhere that we go.
When I finally calmed down (several minutes and miles later), I said a prayer. I apologized for not responding to the Holy Spirit while I crossed the intersection. I apologized for not leaving the parking lot when that bad feeling first came over me. And at the same time, I thanked God for prompting me into a state of awareness and for giving me the ability to see the situation clearly. The gift of fear…that Divine presence and the book again coming into focus all at once.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1