I’m going to do a 4-part series in October entitled “The path.” Each Friday I will share part of my journey and how God prepared me for every painful step ahead of me. He often gave me a hint of what was coming next which brought me so much peace and helped me keep my heart right (well, for the most part). Truth is, He gave me an amazing gift during my greatest struggle: He lit my path.
I was headed to my usual parking row at the airport parking lot when I caught a glimpse of the shuttle out of the corner of my eye. I did a quick scan and pulled in to the nearest spot. I remember thinking, “I’m not going to remember where this is,” (I’m such a creature of habit) but disregarded the thought as I jumped out of my car and ran toward the bus. I’m pretty confident the driver saw me, but as I got closer he pulled away.
“Dang,” I thought, “Now I have to wait for the next one.” A couple minutes later another shuttle neared my stop and to my disappointment the words OUT OF SERVICE were displayed in lights above the windshield. So I decided I’d clean out my purse to pass the time. Just as I finished, a bus pulled up and I got on. As we drove to the airport I wondered why I hadn’t gone back and snapped a picture of my parking spot.
A few days passed and as I was preparing to return home I received a text from the airlines letting me know my flight was delayed by a half hour. Two text messages later, they finally let us on the plane about two hours past our original boarding time. It was a full flight and I got the last seat assignment, very back row, window seat. I fell asleep and awoke to the flight attendant saying we were preparing to land. I was the last person off the plane. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, waking from a foggy dream.
I had carried on my bag so I skipped baggage claim and went straight to the shuttle. We waited for a few minutes for passengers to board and then headed to the east terminal. I sat across from a woman who looked to be in her fifties, dressed in jeans and a jacket with cute shoes (we girls always notice each others’ shoes). I remember thinking she looked great after a potentially long day of travel and a late night at the airport. There was also a small family on the bus, a husband and wife with their little one and probably the grandma. We were all quiet on the ride to the lot which seemed to take longer than usual. I wondered if all their flights had also been delayed.
We drove into the parking area around 1 a.m. I got off on the second stop but the minute I stepped out, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. Just as predicted, I had no idea where my car was. So I set off to search. I walked up and down each row, questioning if I should have counted them off in the opposite direction. After a few minutes, I located Bessie, my 2000 Ford Expedition, still sitting next to the car that was there when I originally parked. I remember that well because I was pleased with the amount of space I had between the two cars, plenty of room to open my back door and remove my bag in a hurry.
I pulled up to one of the exit lanes and inserted my credit card. There seemed to be some commotion in the booth as not one but two agents fumbled around looking for something. I grabbed my receipt, time-stamped 1:17 a.m. As I drove away I noticed a police car with a siren spinning on the roof. Instantly I could sense that something was wrong and started praying for whoever was involved.
One, two, three,
nine, ten, eleven,
Twelve police cars raced past me, traveling in the opposite direction, in the first 10 minutes of my drive. “This is bad,” I thought. When I got home I googled to see if I could find anything out and there was nothing. I drifted off, exhausted from the day’s events.
The next day I got online to see what had happened in those early morning hours and came across a couple news articles that detailed the events that went down at the airport earlier that day. I was in shock as I took in the details.
Police officers were trying to make contact with two auto theft suspects at the airport car rental area. Two cars had been stolen from Hertz and left abandoned nearby with flat tires. When officers arrived at the scene, one or both suspects shot at them but no one was hurt; the police did not return fire. A perimeter was set up to search for the suspects.
Law enforcement suspected that they fled to the short-term parking lot where they then carjacked a silver BMW. The driver, a woman, had paid for her parking and was pulling away from the gate at 1:15 a.m. when a man appeared out of nowhere and came up to her car. She tried to drive around him but he approached her window (which must have been open) and put a gun to her head. The man made her drive away at dangerous speeds as they nearly missed an approaching police car while fleeing the airport area. At some point, the gunman took over the driving and the woman made a brave decision to jump out of her car when it was going about 40 mph. She suffered a head laceration but was expected to recover.
“I thought that injury would be much better than being shot,” she later told a reporter. Her car was found abandoned a couple hours later. They ended up closing the parking lot from 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Travelers who arrived after me sat on the shuttle busses during that time, unable to enter the lot as police secured the area.
My heart tells me the victim was the attractive woman sitting across from me on the shuttle. I don’t know that for sure, but the timing matched. She got off the bus after me and probably knew where her car was parked, then she went straight to the exit.
What an extraordinary set of circumstances and timing. Events like this force us to pause and reflect on the things that are important to us. For me it stirred a sense of God’s timing and protection, realizing that God had His hand on me from the moment I parked in an unfamiliar spot. The time it would take me to locate my car and exit would put me outside of the carjacking window. But only by a couple of minutes.
And God also had his hand on the woman driving the BMW, who was taken at gunpoint at a time when she was probably exhausted and maybe not even able to think clearly. She was in the car with someone who had likely just shot at police officers, someone who may have killed to evade being caught or captured. Desperate motives result in poor choices and little time for remorse or filtering of decisions.
As I thought of that woman, I thanked God for her safety as I processed the miracle that she wasn’t hurt more severely. And then I remembered that God had prompted me to pray for her as those police cars sped by me on the opposite side of the highway. Her life was hanging in the balance and God made sure He had her covered in prayer. I wonder how many other Christians were traveling the highway that night. I have a feeling God had others strategically placed on those roads.
God lit my path the minute I drove into that parking lot. He changed my course and I didn’t even realize at the time that the parking spot had been carefully selected for me. He’s been doing things like this in my life over the past 30 years. Next week I will share the story of a visit to a little gas station on a high school road trip in 1989. (It’s a shorter read.) Please join me for part 2!
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