Horrors! It was pitch black; I could not see my own hands in front of my face! I could not get out; I was trapped; my mind was racing in the wrong direction. I had no clue it was coming; everything happened so fast and all of a sudden… I was stuck in the darkness!
As is our family tradition we attend to church while we are on vacation; and so yesterday we did just that. After Mass, my family planned to celebrate my birthday by going to the lodge and listen to the bag piper play at sunset; and then have a seafood dinner, so, I decided it was a good opportunity to take a quick moment before leaving the church grounds and go back inside to use the ladies room. Leaving everyone in the car, I dashed inside leaving my purse and phone in the car.
Two minutes had not passed when all of a sudden it was as if a timer had gone off: at the precise moment the commode flushed the lights went out, the door locked, and the worst claustrophobic moment of my life began to unfold.
I want to tell you that I was brave like the Moravians in 1736 John Wesley wrote about; when their boat was going to capsize, that, like them, I sang praises to God and thanked Him for the opportunity to experience this moment in time so I could be a witness to others letting them know I was not afraid… but, I did not.
It is important that those of you who do not know me realize that I am a very grounded person; my faith is strong; I have a personal relationship with my Savior and I live in the presence of God. But in that moment, when the room when dark and I heard the lock turn, total panic gripped my thoughts!
Throughout my life I have been in some pretty tough situations…I could regale for days… but nothing, not even the time I was stuck in an elevator, prepared me for this moment in time.
My mind began to race…faster and faster reeling with worst-case scenarios that rapid-fired like a 1930’s black and white melodrama…
Will someone come to look for me; or will they think I got into the other car and simply drive away and leave me here to die in this church bathroom? Or is there actually someone else hiding in the bathroom who is going to sneak up behind me, cover my head with a shroud and carry me off never to be seen again?
I tried to ward off the thoughts as I began to feel my way out of the stall…finding first the door, then the latch then keeping my hands at eye level on the outside of the stall along the wall hoping that I would not trip and fall over something that may be on the floor… but the grip of panic tightened down. Finally, I found the door and began to pound over and over again all the while yelling for help…
Wait!! Don’t go; don’t leave me in here! Bang, bang, bang. Please, help me! I’m in here all alone…come back! Bang, bang, bang! Get me out of here!
I kept banging on the door and yelling as loud as I could for what seemed like an eternity. Then a little old man unlocked the door, turned on the light as he opened the door and mumbled inaudibly as I pushed past him; ran out of the church and jumped back into the car. As fast as it happened, it was over; but the terror that engulfed me seemed to want to linger.
Later, when the panic subsided, I realized I was not alone in the darkness. God was with me, in His house, but I since I was holding on to the panic instead of holding onto Him, I could not see that He was standing right beside me in the midst of my terror.
Why did I hold onto the panic? I have no idea. It certainly did not help the situation at all and had I continued to hold onto it, the rest of my birthday would have been ruined.
We each have a choice in every moment and I choose poorly in that moment. When unforeseen circumstances occur, panic is often our human reaction. Instead, choose to turn to our Peacemaker and hold onto Him; panic will flee.
How I wish I could tell you that I gained control of my panic and reached out to Almighty God, my Peacemaker; that I prayed and patiently awaited help to arrive…but I cannot. What a poor witness I was; stuck in the darkness. Not only were the lights out, but I let myself be emotionally dark to that which I know to be true: neither height, nor depth, nor breadth (Romans 8:39) nor, the darkness of a church bathroom with no way out can separate me from the love of my Lord. And, I am exceedingly certain that though I may have fallen short this time, not only am I am forgiven but I will do it better next time.