It was the Paris subway on Dec 31st, 2018. I was going to the Gambetta station and had just taken a connection. It was the shield of God that protected me from a knife stab to my stomach. In a flash, the attack was over and I was safe. Only when I look back I realize how seriously bad this could have been. At times like this, we know, some invisible shield protects us.
I had arrived to celebrate the New Year. My two children in their twenties were joining me and they would go off on their own explorations for a few days after I returned to Boulder, CO where I work from. Even after very comfortable Lufthansa flights, I looked tired and worn down after twelve hours in airports and planes. Almost gleefully, the journey was extraordinarily productive. In ten hours, I had organized and downloaded all my files from my computer to an external hard drive and was in the process of creating another copy on another drive when we landed. Still, I had a clean laptop and nicely organized files on a hard drive. It was years of work in a current drive apart from the automated disorganized disk backups in the cloud. Everything was neatly folder-ed here. So like a precious treasure that it was, I kept the disk in my sling bag. My most valuable possessions were in front of me and on me. The bag also had my passport and wallet. In other words, it had all my identification and data. I knew it but was not giving it any thought. My focus was getting to Airbnb artist loft, French food, and meeting children.
I boarded a crowded train. It was late afternoon on the last day of the year. The trains were full. My train arrived. The doors slid open. I walked in an stood by the door holding the pole. Anyone could tell that I was a tired traveler. A young fellow dressed in a long black wool coat moved toward me. He seemed to also be reaching for the pole to hold and stay stable. The train was about to start. Just as the doors started to close, he bumped me like he was giving me an embrace, which was very awkward and somewhat confusing. In Paris? Just then I felt a tug on my shoulder and the man walked off the train. Instantly I realized that my sling bag was gone. The doors were closing.
Now comes the shield of God. I can only connect the dots looking back. Somehow, I lunged after the man’s shoulder and hit it in such a way that the bag fell out of his hands and fell right in front of me and within reach so that I could keep one foot in the closing doors’ path and still pick it up. By this time some passengers also tried to hold the doors back. I grabbed the bag and jumped back into the train. All was good.
One look at the clean cut of the bag’s strap shows that the man had a sharp knife or tool. A little miscalculation on his part could have stabbed me right in the stomach. When I leaped after him, any of his three accomplices could have tripped or punched me, or the bag could have fallen on the tracks… none of that happened. This had to be a well-planned tactic for the four men who had surrounded me in such a way that the rest on the passengers could not see anything and the only way to tell was in retrospect when I replayed how they blocked other passengers’ view of me first and then left the train together.
How the lightning flash of the moment fired up my actions after a long flight and tiredness can only be the work of God. I know. At that moment, I had no time to think what was in the bag. The action was automatic and instantaneous. It was not my work. It was God.
Of course, I was blessed. But this did more. In narrating this incident to my children on the first day of the trip, God shielded my children from dropping their guard too. We all had a safe trip.
God shows up in our lives in ways small and big. These are causes for humility and gratitude, and for me, these are the basis of spirituality.