Letting go of fear can make anything an adventure.
Several years ago I was working at an espresso stand in Western Washington. This is becoming a more popular way to buy coffee beverages throughout the US, but it has been a kind of epidemic in the Pacific Northwest for decades now. I usually worked by myself in this little hut just off of a popular highway. To the East (on the window side), was the highway and to the West (the door side) stood an enormous and visibly abandoned building.
Within the course of several weeks we began to hear reports of other drive-thru espresso stands being robbed in the area.
Setting aside what kind of dope would risk jail time for the pitiful amount of money to be found in an espresso stand, it made all of us worry. I remember coming to work on several afternoons feeling fear that this thief would choose me.
What fear accomplished in me made me worse at my job. Instead of welcoming every customer that came, I felt super cautious and suspicious of certain men and all walk-ups. I smiled less, and engaged in much less conversation…
To me, this was unacceptable. I feel very strongly that punishing other people for my negative emotions is not just bad customer service, but abysmal human interaction.
Since, on past occasions, God had taken away fear, I turned to Him for help. “God, the fruit of this fear of being robbed is that I am withholding kindness from people! Please take this fear away. Whether I’m robbed or not, I trust you to care for me.”
Guess what happened just a few hours later?
Yes! The adventure of armed robbery.
Because of my earlier prayer and God’s faithfulness to give me peace, when a young man walked up in the twilight hours, I jumped off of my stool in the back and put on my best smile. Although he walked up on the door side (facing previously mentioned abandoned building) he chose to come around to the window side.
As he walked up to the window, I launched into cheerful banter. To be totally honest, I was nearly flirting with this guy. After a few comments back and forth, I asked him what kind of drink I could make him and he said, as he lifted his white t-shirt and exposed a gun in his belt,
“This is a 9mm. I want you to take the money from the register and put it into a bag.”
Here is what my sense of peace did for me: Not only was I kind to him when he first walked up, not even a tiny grain of fear entered my mind when he revealed himself to be The Robber. My reaction verged on daft. I got stuck on the word “bag” and in my desire to help this “customer” I said, with concern,
“I don’t have any bags, but I could put the money in a cup?”
He gave me some impatient response and then, when I stood stacking the money from the register neatly in my hand, he spoke through clenched teeth, “Could you hurry it up?!”
I was apologetic. Sincerely NOT registering what was happening.
When the money was in the cup, I handed it out, he hurried away and I, in my altered state of mind said after him,
“Have a nice day!”
I then stood in the middle of my work space trying to put my finger on something floating outside of my understanding. I thought to myself, “I feel like I’m supposed to call someone.” Like when you’re at the grocery store and you purchase 15 things but can’t remember the one thing you came into the store to buy.
After several confused moments, a gentle bolt of lightening struck and I had it, “The police!”
Etc, etc. the police and my boss arrived and asked questions and searched the area. Some time in the next few days I went down to the police station to give a description to a sketch artist. Just like in the movies!
It took only a few weeks for this dull man to get himself caught by police in Seattle. And so, as an eye witness, I was invited to go DOWNTOWN. Because I lived several towns north of Seattle, two local detectives drove me there in an unmarked sedan. They wore trench coats and we spent the whole ride cracking jokes. As far as I could tell, they were just as excited as I was to go pick out a criminal in a line-up in the big city.
Literally the only worry that crossed my mind in this whole situation was whether I would be able to recognize him again when I saw him.
Were his eyes like this? His hair? How tall had he been? In the end, it only took me about three looks at each of the men in the line-up to pick out The Robber. There he was. Orange jumper, sullen expression.
I have told this story so many times that I sometimes forget that an account like this would normally be told as a frightful tale, a tale that led to counseling and nightmares. But not only was I blissfully unafraid while it was happening, I have felt no aftershocks, no triggers.
While fear is quite useful in certain situations because it can compel us to get out of danger, it was not necessary here. It motivates me to want to always lay down fear and let God give back the state of mind that best suits the situation… even if that state of mind is slow-witted cheer in the face of a foe.