When I returned to the university as a senior, not only had I been away from my friends for a year, but my worldview had changed 180 degrees. I knew I needed to live alone. Even though I called every new listing as soon as it appeared, my attempts to find an apartment failed. One day I realized I could ask God for help. Just as I was praying, the phone rang. It was a landlord. I rushed downtown and discovered the apartment was on the second floor of an old house directly behind St Andrews, the church where I had been baptized and confirmed. It was as if I was hidden in the crook of God’s elbow.
Off my bedroom was a wooden fire escape. One autumn afternoon I sat on the landing and made up a melody to a psalm. As I sang, a squirrel on the ground below me crept up the stairs and sat at my feet. My heart overflowed with joy.
But my joy and safety were sometimes pierced with fear. One weekday after returning from an early morning worship service in the Arboretum, a man knocked on my door looking for Debby. I said it must be a different Debby. He asked to use my phone to call her and I foolishly let him in. Immediately I realized I was in danger. I sat under a cross in my window and begged God to protect me. Somehow the man left. A couple weeks later I was walking through campus with Diane and saw him. I told Diane what happened to me and was stunned when she said he was the person who had broken into her apartment and raped her roommate.
Another time I put myself in jeopardy when I signed up with Ozone House, an organization that found places for people to spend the night. Late one night they called and I agreed to put up two men. When they arrived, they were not college kids but hardcore drifters as frightening as the drug dealers who stayed at my house in Exeter. Immediately one laid on the floor to sleep and warned me not to wake him because he might stab me if I startled him. The other man pestered me all night to have sex with him. In the morning I found out he had a gun. I left town for the weekend and never saw them again.
When I biked to campus I often passed a Korean graduate student and eventually started up a conversation with him. One day he offered to cook me a traditional Korean dinner. It was delicious, but then he wanted to demonstrate a traditional Korean massage. Again I found myself in a compromised position. But by God’s grace I escaped that situation too. The Lord mercifully protected me, knowing my generous heart needed a strong dose of wisdom and common sense.