“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
As much as I love the colors of fall, the smell of harvest in the air, and the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, October is not one of my favorite months. I despise the 31 days of horror on television. I cringe when I see the flyers advertising haunted houses, posted on store windows. And I am sickened by the gory costumes that department stores sell, especially for children.
I believe that there is already more than enough ‘scary’ in this world. You don’t have to watch the evening news for very long before you see evidence that this is true. Even places that I once considered to be secure, like churches, schools and homes, have somehow become the setting for sinister acts in certain areas of our country.
This past month, I was asked to practice a lockdown drill in my elementary classroom. I have always believed in telling my students the truth, so I explained to them that if there were ever a bad person that was trying to get into our school building, our building would be ‘locked down’. I explained that it would be safest for us to take a position of hiding, to make the person think that our classroom was empty. We talked about my responsibilities as a teacher and their responsibilities as students. Mine would be to lock the door, shut the shades, and turn off the lights. Theirs would be to sit quietly in their assigned places. We talked about this at length, and the next day, when we heard the drill message announced, we practiced it. It went well; as well as a drill for a lockdown can go, I suppose. And then, when the lights were on again and the children were back in their seats, I asked my 6-year-old students if they had any questions.
“Why weren’t you hiding?” one of them asked.
I had been crouched by the door. I was low enough not to be seen through the window, but in position to meet the intruder first, if he or she got through the door. At that moment, I wondered if honesty was still going to be my best choice. I decided to give them the truth, but to put it as simply and as ‘matter of fact’ as I could.
“I would be next to the door, so that I could be your protection. If the bad person somehow got inside of our room, I would stand between you and that person.”
As a thousand horrible images went through my head, my students and I awkwardly made the transition from lockdown drill back to school and learning mode. As they worked on their afternoon assignments, I looked at each innocent face and prayed to God that if the unthinkable happened I would have the courage to stand between these children and evil.
About a week after I had practiced the lockdown drill with my students, a frightening incident happened at my home. After supper, my husband noticed a car, with out of state plates, parked across from our house. There was a lady inside. An hour later, the car was still there. It was starting to get dark, so my husband decided to walk over to the car and see if the woman needed help. She explained that she and her boyfriend had had a fight, and he left her there in the car. She said that she was certain he would return and didn’t need anything from us. My husband came back to the house, and then, as a precaution, locked all of the doors and the garage, something we rarely do in our safe little community of 700 people. An hour later we shut off the lights and headed upstairs to bed.
My daughter heard the knocking first. I heard it the second time. I sat up in bed and looked at the alarm clock. It was 2:30 in the morning. When I heard my daughter’s door open, I jumped out of bed. We met in the hallway. She was terrified. My husband, who hadn’t heard the knocking, had heard our voices. He went downstairs to see who was at the door, while I walked my daughter back into her bedroom. I told her to stay there and to shut her door when I left. I walked back into the hallway and my husband yelled up the stairs to call the police. The lady from the car outside was standing on our front porch trying to talk to my husband through the locked front door, but there was no sign of her boyfriend. Maybe he was hiding behind the shrubs, or maybe he was standing just out of sight, waiting for my husband to open the door. But the door stayed closed.
The remainder of the night was not very restful. My husband dozed downstairs on the sofa as he waited for the police, and my daughter slept in my room. The car was gone the next morning, and with its absence came the slightest feeling of security.
The Halloween season will soon be over, but unfortunately the ‘scary’ that has become such a part of this world seems to be here to stay. It breaks my heart to think that my 6-year-old students need to know the definition of a lockdown, and that my 16-year-old daughter probably won’t ever feel completely safe in her own home. It embarrasses me to think that the same teacher that boasted to her class that she would protect them from the bad person then refused to help the woman that came to her door.
When I find myself facing situations like the ones I just described, there is something that brings a sense of solace to me. It’s not a trick or treat bag full of candy. It’s my belief in God. His Word states very clearly that there will be times of trouble and pain in my life, but He promises to never leave my side. There are countless verses in the Bible that remind me to let my faith in Him be stronger than my fears in this world. God will hold me, not only through October, but also through the whole year, and the next one, and the next one, and the next. He will never leave me. And in those times when I am not sure who is at the door, God will be there when I open it.