Being A Hero

Will Penner

Even though I had graduated the previous May, I was still living in the apartments across the street from my college campus. This time in my life was particularly interesting spiritually. In fact, I was on my way home from a revival service, and I was quite excited about my relationship with God.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a couple of guys who were not dressed like the people I typically saw in the area. Members of a gang, I thought. Immediately, I admonished myself for jumping to conclusions; I recognized that I had stereotyped people I didn’t even know.

That said, I still felt uneasy. The words of Psalm 23 began to flow through my mind: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (23:4, KJV). Reassured, I turned off the ignition, began to exit the car, and came face to face with the barrel of a pistol.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey wanted money. Ironically, I had none to offer. The gunman angrily told me to get back in the car; he and his companions got in too. As they muttered threats about what would happen if I didn’t cough up some cash, a police car drove by slowly, as if patrolling the area. The gunman cocked the pistol and said, “Don’t do anything stupid.” The officer did not see us and kept driving.

The moment the police car was out of sight, the gunman told me to start the car and to pull out slowly. For the next two hours, I drove wherever the men told me to drive as they tried to figure out what to do next.

The smell of liquor and marijuana still permeated the air; but the effects of these drugs began to wane, and the men grew angrier. I began to pray, first silently and then out loud. Without thinking, I tried to make a connection by engaging them in dialogue—until the guy in the passenger seat pushed the barrel of the gun up against my head and shouted at me to shut up.

I realized that I was about to die and began to rehearse possible scenarios in my mind. Since I was in the driver’s seat and the gunman was in the passenger seat, I could slam on the brakes and wrestle the gun from the guy. I was pretty sure the guy in the back seat didn’t have a gun. Not only would I be safe from these hoodlums, but I would also be a hero for single-handedly apprehending them.

In the midst of my little daydreams, God’s still, small voice was way louder than usual—so strong that it was almost audible. God let me know that everything would be OK and that I should simply be still and let God handle the situation.

Ultimately, the men let me go. They even let me keep my car—after warning me that they knew where I lived and would come back if I talked to the police.

I never again stayed the night in my apartment. For the next six months or so, I wasn’t around much at all because I had begun to interpret all sorts of benign situations as personal attacks, attempts to wrestle away what little control I still had over my life.

devozine heroAs I looked back on that night, I began to feel like a sissy for letting those guys bully me into submission instead of taking more heroic action. I felt as if a real man would have acted without fear and taken them down. After all, that’s what every hero in every action movie would have done. I felt that instead of being a hero, I had been a wimpy victim—though I knew in my heart that I had followed God’s direction.

Occasionally, I still feel like a wuss. Even writing about the situation is more than a little awkward. I’m sure that the ridiculous image I have of what it means to be manly came from characters I had seen on TV and in movies. Once again I remember that what we see has an impact on the decisions we make.

Since then, I have tried to make a conscious effort 1) to pay closer attention to discerning the messages I receive from media and 2) to combat negative messages from the culture with positive messages from scripture, worship, prayer, and uplifting music, as well as from people who love and encourage me. We cannot help being influenced by other people and the media, but we can guide their influence through the active choices we make.



A crisis will hit in some way at some time. When it does, your reactions will be shaped by what influences you now. Think about how you are spending your time, especially your free time. How much of it is purely recreational, without addressing your spiritual growth or building up your character? Then consider what influences you want to be shaping your life. How can you insure that they are top priorities for at least some of your free time? What are some small changes you can make that will help you to keep these priorities in focus over the long haul?


Police Car Photo Credit: pamela ross via Compfight cc

Will Penner is a husband, dad, teacher, speaker, author, editor, and minister, who lives in Fairview, Tennessee.

-from devozine (May/June 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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