I was walking along this morning, enjoying the fall weather and thinking about my everyday concerns, when I heard rustling in the dry roadside brush. It sounded like some large animal and the rustling seemed to be keeping pace with me, not too far away and a little behind.
Mountain lions are occasionally observed in the area and just last week a black bear had to be removed from a backyard tree in a neighborhood two blocks from my home. So, it wasn’t too unreasonable for me to visualize one of these beasts as the source of the sounds.
I looked around and quickened my pace until I no longer heard the movement. I told myself I was being an alarmist and continued on my walk, but I had been shaken for a moment or two.
Coming around a rise I noticed two men on the roadside. They appeared to be a couple of vagabonds. One was idly stumming a guitar. Just opposite to where they stood is the turn off to the secluded quarter mile section of abandoned roadway I usually take on my walks. This morning I crossed to the other side of the road, wished the men a pleasant, “Good morning!” and continued on to the busy highway, avoiding my regular more isolated route.
Now, I can’t tell you if what I heard in the brush was actually a predatory animal. It may have been a large raccoon, stray dog or even my over-active imagination. The hitchhiking troubadours were probably lovely men with no interest in accosting lone women in out of the way locations. But, briefly this morning I felt completely vulnerable.
Fear has a wonderful way of concentrating one’s focus and putting things into perspective.
There was a time in my life when I felt perfectly capable of taking care of myself in a physical encounter. That was because I had never been tested. When the time came that I was physically attacked I found out how incapable of defending myself I really am.
The man who attacked me with his fists was not so very large or strong, but when he began to pummel me and I fought back, I found out how ineffectual my efforts were. When he calmed down, my contrite assailant hadn’t a mark on him, while I was covered with bruises on my upper body. The spirit was willing, but my flesh was weak.
If a wild animal had sprung out at me this morning my best hope would have been to grab my cell phone, curl into a ball, call for help and wait, trusting that the help would arrive in time to save me.
I think that many non-believers have the same sort of false confidence in their ability to take care of themselves, spiritually, as I once had in my physical prowess.
If they were spiritually assaulted in the past, they never fought back, so they don’t realize how defenseless they are. Those who do sense their own spiritual weakness sometimes turn to the spiritual exercises the world offers. These sometimes give an illusion of greater spiritual well-being and control.
Ultimately, on our own we are all vulnerable to spiritual attack. Our only real defense is to cover our tenderness with the Lordship of Jesus Christ, call out to him in prayer and trust that he will save us.