Be On The Alert
Be On The Alert!
I often hear the words, “You travel alone?” The words are usually accompanied by a shake of the head or a disapproving look. I’ve been traveling alone since I was 20 years old when I made my first business trip with the Yamaha International Corporation to Los Angeles, California.
I was newly married and I still remember my mother’s terrified warning, “You could be kidnapped and sold as a slave.”
At 21, I went to New York on business and Mama came along for protection. On that particular trip, someone broke into the room with us asleep and stole my plane ticket from the dresser. I actually woke up and saw the man in the room but thought I had dreamed it until the ticket was missing the next day.
In those days, most plane tickets were the same as cash but because Yamaha had pre-paid the ticket in my name only and made it non-refundable, when this man tried to redeem it, the airline confiscated the ticket and returned it to me. I always wondered what would have happened if I had been alone in that room.
In the early seventies, it wasn’t common for women to travel for business. “You did that better than the men who come here,” said an amazed car rental cashier. I had just arrived at her desk, credit card and driver’s license in hand, prepared with the answers to all of her questions.
I usually traveled in a navy blue business suit (women’s “Dress For Success” attire) and men would assume I was a flight attendant. “Where are you flying to today?” they would ask with a flirtatious smile. I didn’t realize until years later, how much in the minority I was in the seventies as a female business traveler.
You would think my family and friends were used to my traveling alone but it worries many of them. My Uncle Bobby pleaded with me not to go on this journey. When he finally gave up, he committed to pray and I have no doubt that my safety is the focus of much of his prayer life.
On my first Pocket Full of Quarters trip, my best friend Nancy was sure I was going to be murdered by a hotel maintenance man and that there was going to be duct tape involved. Her warning led me to leave a hotel when a maintenance man frightened me and I have always wondered if it saved me. She tried to talk me out of taking this trip, convinced that this time, a truck driver was going to be the cause of my demise.
I know the risks of a female traveling alone and try to be constantly alert to danger. If danger were a reason not to fulfill God’s call in our lives, no one would join the military, become a missionary to a dangerous country, or serve us as a police officer or fire fighter. Certainly, the disciples would never have spread the gospel. However, the Bible is quite clear that the devil is always on the prowl and that we are supposed to be on the alert. I can’t allow potential danger to cause me not to follow God’s call, but I can be careful.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. NASU
Part of being careful is to be constantly aware of my surroundings. I pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store in what looked like a reasonably safe area. As I parked, I noticed a tan, battered pickup truck with smoke coming from the tail pipe. The male driver stopped and lingered behind my van.
As I got out of my van, this man just sat there, looking like he was waiting for me to walk by. Instead of walking behind the van, I went to the front and rushed into the store, sure I was being silly. As I glanced over my shoulder to see where he was, he gave me a leering, evil grin and I shuddered as he backed up and parked beside my van.
I got my grocery cart and rushed down the first aisle, hoping to get far ahead of him. On the 3rd aisle, he was behind me with no cart, walking leisurely, pretending to look at the food items, while casting glances my way. I left the aisle and walked 2 aisles over. A few minutes later, he appeared behind me again, this time, with a cart.
I left the aisle and walked to the other side of the store, to the restroom facilities. When I came out, he was standing there, getting water. He glanced up and quickly looked back down.
I felt a Still, Small Voice whisper the words, “I send you out as a sheep in the midst of the wolves so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” This was a scripture I had found useful in the business world but now I realized God was using it to tell me to outsmart this grimy wolf in tattered jeans that seemed to be lurking, just waiting for a sheep to devour.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. NASU
I touched my bracelet that says, “I am always with you” and realized that while I was alert, I wasn’t afraid. Show me what to do, I prayed, still wondering if I was imagining the danger.
Outsmart him, I felt God whisper. The words of the 23rd Psalms comforted me.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; NASU
I thought about bolting for the front door and getting in my van but I felt safer in the grocery store. Not knowing what else to do, I continued shopping, always staying where there were plenty of people.
I lost him on another aisle and got in line to pay. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he pulled in line directly behind me and gave me that grin again. I got out of line with the pretense of walking over to the bookrack to look for a book. He went ahead through the line and left the store as I pretended to read. I stood by the bookrack for a full 10 minutes, giving him plenty of time to leave.
Finally, I got in line to pay. Is he gone? I wondered. I was still nervous and knew to trust my instincts.
“Would you like help getting to the car?” the friendly cashier asked.
I looked at my 2 small bags of groceries and said, “I don’t need help with the groceries but I’d like someone to walk with me to the car. A man followed me through the store and I’m a little frightened.”
A woman, who looked like she could protect anyone, walked me to my car in the crowded parking lot and I filled her in on the details. Sure enough, this man was still sitting in his truck, right beside Happy and Belle. Nancy’s warning about a truck driver came back to me. I’m sure she meant a professional driver of a semi but this man was clearly driving a truck.
“He’s still there,” I told the woman. “That’s him.”
“Let’s walk together to the back of your van and put your groceries in. We won’t go on the side where he is sitting. We’ll stand here talking and see if he leaves. There’s plenty of people around us,” she said encouragingly.
This man was watching us and I know he knew what we were doing. Sure enough, he cranked his truck and drove off. When he got to the other side of the parking lot, he stopped.
The woman gasped, realizing the danger for the first time. “He’s waiting on you to drive off so he can follow you. I checked his license plate. He’s not from around here. Let’s just stand here for a few more minutes and if he doesn’t leave, we’ll call the police.”
After a few more minutes, the man pulled off and drove right by us. He grinned again and had the audacity to wave. He was enjoying our alarm. He turned the corner headed down the road toward Interstate 10 and was out of our sight.
Logic said I was safe but I was still uneasy. “I’m sorry,” I said, explaining why I still wanted company. “I’m still nervous and I trust my instincts. I’ve found that God speaks to me through my instincts.” I quoted her the scripture God had given me in the grocery store.
“You know,” she said thoughtfully. “I think you’re right. Every time I don’t trust my instincts, I get in big trouble. Let’s go check on him.”
Together, we walked across the parking lot, to the end of the store, and peaked around the corner, making sure we couldn’t be seen from the road. Sure enough, he had stopped on the side of the road and was waiting by the entrance to Interstate 10.
“He’s seen my Florida license plate and guessed I’m getting on the Interstate,” I said. “He’s waiting to see what direction I go in.”
“There’s another way to the interstate,” she said. “He can’t see your car from where he is so if you go another way, he won’t know. I think you should head towards the other entrance and, if he somehow follows you again, head directly to the police station.” She gave clear concise directions to the police station and to the other entrance to Interstate 10.
I took her advice, speeding off as fast as I could drive, almost hoping I’d get pulled over for speeding. I constantly looked over my shoulder for a dirty tan truck but saw nothing. I easily found the other entrance to Interstate 10 East and didn’t stop for 150 miles. I didn’t even care that I had un-refrigerated milk in the back seat. I did what you said, God. I outsmarted him, I prayed.
As I got further and further from the danger, I felt my hands shaking. If I’m going to fall apart, it is always when something is over. I believe that if I had not trusted my instincts and had walked to my car alone, I would have been one of those women you read about who disappears, leaving an abandoned car in a shopping center.
I thanked God for my friend Nancy who warned me about a truck driver and my Uncle Bobby who was praying for me. I thanked God for His words from His book that had warned me in the grocery store and wondered what people did who didn’t read the Bible. I prayed for my stalker and for the next person he stalked.
Then, I did what every little girl does when she doesn’t feel safe. I called my earthly daddy and told him my story. “There sure are some nuts out there, Cheryle. You have to be careful,” Daddy said calmly. “You didn’t try to interview or witness to him did you?”
“No Daddy,” I said. “God didn’t give me that assignment. He just told me to run.”
Daddy and I talked on the phone for about 30 minutes as I calmed down. Not once did he suggest I come home or give up my mission. He just talked, getting my mind on other things. As we hung up Daddy asked, “He’s not behind you is he?”
“No Daddy,” I said. “I feel safe now.” I thanked God for a good earthly daddy who always made me feel so safe. He made it easy for me to trust my Heavenly Father who is my real source of safety.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and is safe. NASU