Back when I was a police officer, I found myself in a large courtyard one night checking for suspicious activity. I did not have my flashlight but there was enough ambient light that I could see to maneuver behind the large apartment building. I was by myself and moving quietly as I tried to discover what the problem was.
Suddenly, I sensed movement to my right. I looked and saw two glowing eyes moving slowly towards me out of the shadows. The eyes belonged to a black panther that was bigger than the biggest police dog I had ever seen. The large cat’s tail was long and I could see it twitching and flicking as the animal padded silently in my direction.
I started backing up while maintaining eye contact with the panther. It continued to move forwards, slowly stalking me. As I continued to back up, I tripped over a section of uneven payment and landed on my back. I tried to slide backwards as I managed to draw my pistol. There was no way I was going to get away. The panther was too close and I was flat on my back.
The animal kept coming, taking his time, as he prepared to attack. At a distance of about ten feet, I squeezed the trigger of my 9mm Glock pistol and heard the worst sound known to man– a loud “click.” I knew I had loaded the gun before my shift but it had not fired. I quickly worked the slide, ejecting the bad round of ammo and loading another one.
Now the panther was close enough to strike. It swung a paw towards my leg. Miraculously, the claws missed flesh but I felt the fabric of my polyester uniform pants ripping. I pointed my pistol at the panther and again squeezed the trigger. Another “click.” What was wrong with my gun? I was meticulous about keeping it clean and making sure it would work when I needed it.
I cycled the slide again and put the front sight of the pistol between the panther’s eyes. I saw the big cat coil to spring. I pulled the trigger just as he jumped. This time the gun fired and the bullet struck him right between the eyes. It fell over onto its left side without a sound.
My heart was pounding. My breath was coming in gasps. I knew how close I had just come to being ripped apart. I managed to get unsteadily to my feet. I heard the sound of running steps coming up behind me. Another officer had heard the shot and had come running to my aid. He was holding a flashlight and I wanted to get a closer look at this huge panther that had come so close to killing me.
When we walked over and shone his flashlight, though, it was not a huge panther after all. It was just a large house cat. That was when I woke up.
Being a police officer for almost thirty years gave me more than one bad dream. This is the last scary dream I remember having before I retired. This was one of those dreams, though, that I believe actually carried a message.
As I prepared for my retirement, I prayed for God’s guidance about what I should do after I retired. I found myself struggling with fear and uncertainty. I had been a police officer for almost thirty years and now I was about to step out into the unknown world of retirement. Do you ever feel that way?
The fear that lurks in the darkness often appears to be much larger than it really is. That panther was, in fact, just a big house cat. The darkness, however, made it seem so much bigger. When I turned the light on, though, I saw it for what it really was.
Fear and worry gain their power in the darkness. The thing that we worry about is not nearly as big as the shadow that it casts. So, how can we defeat our fears? First of all, we need to turn on the light. Exposing what we are afraid of is very powerful. We can do this by sharing it with a trusted friend or leader and allowing them to pray for us. It sounds like a simple thing but getting someone else’s perspective can change everything.
A second thing that we must do to defeat fear and worry is pray. Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all that he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-8)
There is such a power when we immediately go to God with whatever tempts us to worry and fear. There have been times when I have had to do this multiple times in a day. God’s peace is so powerful and is always to be preferred to my fear!
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