Saturday, October 31, 2009

Walking Down the Lane - He Held My Hand

(I am starting a new series called "Walking Down The Lane" Posting will be sporadic, but the purpose will be to share memories... I almost didn't finish writing this, but have been inspired by my friend Marilyn to "Write it Anyway" -- The first installment posted below is an 11 year-old memory that took place when The Professor and I were in that stage between dating and hanging out.)

Although we met in May, The Professor (then a grad student) and I did not become fast friends. Our first official date didn't occur until October 26, 1998, but we were getting to know each other via swing dancing, which was all the rage in Orlando during the late 90's.

One night, while The (future) Professor was walking me to my car from a dance club, I was almost too engaged in conversation to notice that we were approaching a haunted attraction located near the iconic Church Street Station (this attraction is now closed). This was one of those places that hired costumed actors to stand outside the building and spook passersby.

Before I can continue with the memory, there is something you need to know. When it comes to fright, I'm a lightweight. I cower under blankets, clutch my knees, and cover my eyes while watching horror movies (during the span of my life I have not watched more than eight and I consider The Sixth Sense, Jaws, and Silence of the Lambs horror flicks.) I also steer clear of scary and gory Halloween costumes and decorations. And I Do. Not. Do. Haunted Houses. Except for two ride on on which I close my eyes the entire time and fake calmness; the other one is Disney World's "Haunted Mansion." I'm also not too proud to admit that my heart raced rapidly as I waited in line for my first visit to Disney's favorite creepy house.

Now that you know that I am easily terrorized, you should also know that those costumed actors I referred to earlier were well-trained to sense fear. I know this because I was frequently stalked and touched by Dracula and some lady of the dead woman when I walked by the building. And by frequently, I mean twice, because after the second time I refused to walk on the same side of the street...until that night with The (future) Professor.

While we were talking and laughing, I glanced up and noticed that we were just one block away from "Terror on Church Street." Not wanting to appear a wimp in front of a man I fancied, I nonchalantly suggested we cross the street. Being oriented toward logic and efficiency, The (future) Professor nixed that idea because that would be walking in the opposite direction of where our cars were parked.

"But the other side of the street is nicer," I said, "and it is a great night for a longer walk."

I thought he would take the bait, and perhaps he would have if my posture and voice had not betrayed me with stiffness.



"Are you scared?"

He caught me. I bit my lip and lightly stomped my high-heeled-shoe on the sidewalk.

"Yes. Those things don't like me. They follow me and won't leave me alone."

He smiled and refrained from laughing, although I knew he wanted to laugh.

"It's because they know you are scared of them. You make it too easy for them to do their job. C'mon."

Part of me was annoyed. I couldn't believe he was going to make me walk past the undead when he knew I was scared. I wanted him to humor me and cross the street. I wanted him to make me feel safe and as irrational as I knew it was, I could not fathom feeling secure walking by that haunted house.

I continued walking, but my pace was snail slow.

This time, he let out a little laugh and said, "Come on, it is going to be OK, just hold your head up straight and don't let them know that you're scared." And then he did something wonderful...something simple, but something that swept me with feelings of safety...he held my hand. He held my hand and he did not let go of it until we passed the haunted building. And then we both laughed. And then I knew that I really liked him.

When I first began writing down this memory I had no intentions of turning it into a devotion...I really didn't see how it could tie into one. But now that I wrote the memory something sticks in my mind and it is quite obvious, yet still I feel compelled to share.

There are times when I foresee a situation that scares me and I want to turn away and run...but know that running is not an option. Sometimes I know I need to keep walking...not on another street...not in another direction...but straight ahead. I need to keep moving, even when I don't want to move...even when I feel frozen with fear...even when I am stubbornly unwilling to take another step...I need to keep going.

Those are the times when God gently turns up my chin, steadies my shaking spirit, and says, "Come on, Angela, it is going to be OK." Then He holds my hand and walks with me; and even if it is a path I do not want to take, with Him by my side, I know I am safe.

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