On this night 7 years ago I was lying on the side of the road with a gun to my head…
I used to work with at risk youth. Some of the worst in our state. One family I worked with the grandfather raped his daughter and had children by her. I worked with both the children and grandchildren of that abusive conception. It was my job to somehow support them to get their lives on track. One of the brothers was a really great kid. He was the youngest and we spent a lot of time together. I’d help him get to work, clean his house, organise his calendar and stop him from fighting with the neighbour. When his brother nearly successfully suicided we went and spent hours with him at the hospital. We listened, prayed and journeyed with him out of that dark place.
One night I was helping out at a BBQ for the homeless. By sheer chance his brother/uncle was there. I knew of him but had never met him. He’d recently been in prison and was sleeping rough on the streets. I remember that night clearly… it was a particularly bitter, cold and windy night.
I had become so close with his brothers and knew in painful detail of the trauma that tormented their very identity in the most destructively shameful way possible. Shame that led them to the poor decisions that created the prison they lived in. I connected with him and told him I knew his brothers. He told me about everything he’d been through lately. It felt simply barbaric to leave him alone in the cruel elements of that cold night. I took him home and made a bed for him
We were all about to call it a night and he pulled a knife from a taped up cardboard sheath tucked into his sock and held it to my throat. He demanded we go for a drive. (He first attempted to steal my roommate Josh Duffield’s car first but I managed somehow to convince him to take mine. I really wish I had that footage it was amazing seeing my good conservative Seventh Day Adventist primary school teacher friend with arms crossed stand down an ex con with a knife… what an extraordinary memory. Thanks for that Josh).
I had been help up at knife point several times before this in my work so I knew enough to keep my head. But this was my worst hostage experience. We got in my car and started driving. I sneakily suggested we turn into an estate in Caloundra that had only one entry and only one exit. I got him lost and held my phone down by my side and called a police friend of mine. I called out the streets we were driving down and pretended to talk about them. E.g. “Oh look there, we’re on Smith St, it’s a nice street don’t you think? There’s nice houses here on Smith St where we’re going for a drive”. He looked at me like I was weird. I just smiled and nodded. Tim, my friend with the police, messaged back saying that help was on the way. He had his knife held tight in his left hand and would indicate from time to time that he would stab me in the chest with it.
I remember at one point I had a moment of timeless clarity and saw what was actually going on. That this was simply a tortured soul brought into this world through the ultimate abuse and betrayal. His identity down to his DNA, his very life and existence was evidence of this. He was desperately trying to take back some control but being filled with fear and insecurity he thought he could only do that with a knife. I realised that he was actually the hostage. He was the one that was held captive by the trauma of his identity and the poor decisions he made from that. I was the one that was free. I had made my peace with God and I knew I was loved. He just didn’t. I placed my hand on his back and prayed for him. I prayed that he would know his real identity. That peace would fall on him and that he would feel loved for the first time in his life and that his life had purpose beyond the terrible hand he’d been dealt. He started to tear up and I think at least in part it cut through to him.
The blue and red lights lit up behind us and he began tearing through the estate at terrifying speeds. I suggested “we” make a run for it through a field. He ran the car off the road. I knocked the gear stick out of gear and ripped on the handbrake. We were heading for a street pole. I snapped at the steering wheel and yanked it down to the left which slid the car and narrowly avoided the pole. I jumped out of the car and was screamed at by several officers wielding their guns to get on the ground. They didn’t know who was who at first. It really was a cold and bitter night. The adrenalin concealed the cold initially but slowly it crept over me as I lay face down in the freezing cold dirt with a gun to the back of my head. It was about midnight by this time which meant it was my birthday. I thought to myself “well happy birthday to me”.
They arrested him and took him away. As much as I still hope each time to see these guys deal with their mess and experience real freedom people who are making these choices still need the bars between them and the community.
I’ve thought over the years whether I should’ve done it or not. I mean it was a pretty crazy situation. I’ve thought to myself many times if I would do it the same way. My roommate was a bit unhappy with me. But then if I didn’t do it he might have killed some old lady and taken her car. He was hell bent on heading south. Maybe I was meant to pray for him. Maybe I was just meant to learn from it and that situation drove me to ask the really hard questions which led me to start something as crazy as Cup From Above 365 days later. Maybe it’s just a great story.
I do know that with all love there is risk. And loving is messy. It’s dangerous. It hurts. I’ve experienced far more painful things than having a knife pulled to my throat since then.
Wisdom is knowing that you’re taking the risk, wisdom isn’t avoiding risk: that’s fear. Wisdom is weighing up if the cost worthwhile before paying for it. Sometimes you gotta say no and just take care of yourself and increase the boundaries so you don’t get hurt and that’s cool too. Sometimes you gotta sacrifice. There’s different seasons and that’s okay.
What I’m certain on is that by extending your love like this you get strong. Not that I’d ever do it for this purpose but by taking the risk of outrageous love like this the experience brings about unfathomable growth that I didn’t think was possible.
There’s a cost to stand for justice and it takes strength. All it takes for evil to prevail is for a good man to do nothing. It is our responsibility and opportunity to take the risk and stand up for what is right in every situation presented to us. Each and everyone one of us wherever we are. I hope this story encourages you to see this happen in your own life.