It's not every Christmas morning you wake up with a Bersa .380 in your Christmas stocking.
The story started on an isolated stretch of road, escalated into flagging down a police car, and resolved with more calls to the police and their surprise visit at the home of a very dirty old man. The handgun was the epilogue.
But this post isn't about guns as much as it is about how Christian women should think and act in matters of self-defense given the realities of today. For the record, I'm for gun control, but that term includes greatly divergent types of control that are not the purpose of this post to address.
I run 35 to 40 miles a week. Living as I do in a rural area, those miles are on roads of varying degrees of inhabitation. I live in a low crime area—but all the more reason to resist the lull of a false sense of security, especially when being a woman alone is enough to make one vulnerable, always. So I spend a fair amount of time during those miles being wary, vigilant, and proactive with self-defense strategies.
The first trouble I had, years ago when I lived in another state with more crime, was a flasher who parked on my road in the early mornings, awaiting my daily runs. He would keep far away, face me to, um, service himself, then get in his car and speed off before I was close enough to read his license plate. Teamwork with a neighbor, however, resulted in identification, a house call by the police, and an end to his shenanigans.
The incident that birthed the Bersa started with a truck pulling up beside me and the driver asking me if I "wanted a ride." It's surprising how many such offers one encounters when one is out running. (Note: if you see me running along the road in running shoes and running shorts, rest assured, I do not want a ride. Besides, I'm dying to know: has anyone ever really gotten lucky with such an offer?) When the truck turned around and passed me again, I successfully used what was then the first strategy of my self-defense plan (which I can't disclose publicly without rendering it useless).This was before I was in the habit of taking a cell phone with me (the purpose of such runs being, after all, the sense of lightness and disconnectivity), but miraculously, when I got out on the main road, a police car drove by and I flagged it down. Even so, it took one more encounter with the man before the police were able to put an end to it.
That's when my husband bought me the handgun.
So I wasn't surprised to read in my local newspaper that a new shooting range in my area is attracting a significant portion of female clients. Locations around the country reflect similar patterns. A poll conducted by Gallup in October 2011 reported that 43 percent of women surveyed reported having a gun in their house, a record high since 1993, and 23 percent of women polled said they own a gun. Interestingly, in Texas, the fastest-growing group of concealed handgun owners in the state is black women. Also not surprising is the spike in firearms sales immediately after the Colorado movie theater shootings.
I know that Christians in favor of tighter gun control laws argue that as Christians, particularly ones like me who strongly identify as pro-life, we, of all people, should "love our enemies" and "turn the other cheek." But while as a Christian I try to cultivate my willingness to lay down my life for the sake of the gospel or for the life of another, I don't believe I'm supposed to risk my life for a would-be rapist. To me, being pro-life means protecting my own life, too.
Some might say I should simply give up my love of the outdoors and running (which I've enjoyed since I began running cross-country in Junior High), join a gym, maybe, or drive 20 miles one way into the city to run in a more populous area. But surrendering my freedom and giving in to evil so willingly doesn't seem like the call of the Christian either. Matters of stewardship play into the equation, too: stewardship of my time, talents and my physical and mental health. More than anything else, running meets these needs in my life.
Besides, the handgun is a self-defense strategy of last resort. I now run with a phone. I pay attention to my surroundings at all times. I text the plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles (or those whose drivers offer me a ride) to my husband's phone, and call immediately if I am alone on a long stretch and encounter an unfamiliar, parked, or slow-moving vehicle. And I gave up running on the beautifully forested road where the man in the truck accosted me the first and second time (the final time was on my own road).
Ultimately, in my running, as in all things, I must put my trust in the Lord, yet without testing him.
I was reminded of God's sovereign protection in yet another incident. I was running uphill on a two-mile stretch of a private, uninhabited dirt road when I saw an older model car with an out-of-state plate parked up ahead. A man was leaning against the car smoking a cigarette. Quickly, I pulled my phone from the pack that holds all my necessaries and called my mother, whom I knew to be home. I stayed on the phone with her as I ran a wide berth around the man and his car. As I crested the hill, I saw a police car sitting at the top. Unbeknownst to me, the officer, from his elevated position at the crossroads, had been able to see us the entire time and waited for me to arrive safely.
Yes, God is watching over me. Yet, I am still called to wisdom and good stewardship of all the gifts he's given me, including my life and health.
What about you? What self-defense strategies do you or the women in your life employ?
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