My most interesting penny find this week came on a prayer walk I went on after reading the news about a fatal shooting here in town two days before. I’d inadvertently driven by the scene of the crime while the police were investigating so I was curious about what had happened. The yellow tape, flashing lights, and startled bystanders was a bit frightening but I’d assumed it was a robbery not a homicide. I was wrong. When I left the house to walk I was sorry I’d read the story. It was a haunting reminder that life can be all too quickly interrupted by violence.
Less than five minutes from home I came upon a bullet on the sidewalk. You couldn’t miss it because it was big and very out of place. I picked it up and looked around for signs of trouble. Seeing none, I decided to take it not wanting a kid to get a hold of it. A few minutes later I found a penny and thought it was an interesting juxtaposition. A penny and a .357 magnum shell just don’t go together.
I tweeted about it, curious to know if anyone saw some connection for me. My cousin must have been tuned into my psyche because she quickly replied, “Maybe it’s a metaphor for keeping yourself bulletproof.” Indeed I thought, especially after a year filled with weirdness in my life. “You’re right!” I replied, even though I know that’s not always possible.
It wasn’t three years ago for my neighbor Flo when she and her husband Mike left their house early one morning. I was backing out of my driveway as she and Mike pulled up behind me without either of us paying much attention to the man that pulled behind them. At the corner they turned left, Luke and I turned right, and the man followed them to their friend’s home where he opened fire on them killing Flo, one of her friends, and injuring several others while fleeing the scene. When the police found him an hour later he shot himself leaving everyone without any clue as to what motivated this surreal act of violence.
After months of investigation it was determined to be completely random. It haunts me to this day. If the shooter had followed me and Luke what would have happened when we got to the tennis tournament we were en route to? It was my birthday and the day Luke won his first regional tennis championship. We came home to celebrate only to find the police waiting for us. Later, when I realized the shooter had been parked in front of our house the night before, I wrestled for months with regret that I hadn’t called the police. I’d seen him. I thought it was strange but not so much that I would call the police. There were lots of plausible explanations for why he was there.
When I got home from my walk all these thoughts were floating through my mind. I put the .357 shell next to my penny bowl and sat down to read my Bible which opened to John 16. Previously underlined was the passage, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Then I flipped to Psalms 4 and read King David’s words, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Fortunately, I don’t have David’s life with an army of enemies conspiring against me but we all know in the world today there’s lots of crazy stuff that can happen to anyone. Shootings in your neighborhood and bullets on the street are unsettling. These reminders from Scripture were exactly what I needed. Reading them on the heels of my cousin’s message I felt like God was telling me not to worry.
I don’t believe he’s saying I won’t ever be harmed but I do believe He’s saying no harm can ever come to me permanently. Injury, illness, or violence can’t completely destroy me. I have eternal life. Just like my physical life is a temporary state, anything frightening I might have to endure would be as well. I probably wouldn’t think that at the time but intellectually I know it’s true.
An invulnerable state of mind is what the penny behind the .357 shell was there to encourage and the thirty-five cents that followed that day reinforced the point beautifully. No weapon formed against me can prosper. As David put it, “In God I can trust; I do not need to be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” The answer – Nothing when you’re bulletproof!