The Stranger

It had snowed all day, but as evening arrived, so did the calm. The streets were being plowed, the sidewalks cleared and the steps sanded. As evening turned to nightfall, I called to Tyler, my Cocker Spaniel, and grabbed his leash. “C’mon boy!” I summoned. “Let’s go outside.” Tyler needs no second call for a romp out of doors. He jumps and paws at the door before I can reach it, and once it is opened he bolts like lightning for the backyard. He loves the snow and his glee is evident as he leads the way, towing me behind. It isn’t ever very clear as to who is walking who… This night was no different - until suddenly he stopped in his tracks.

A low rumble of a growl came from my usually happy pup. He took a step back, still growling. “What is it, Tyler?” I asked as if expecting an answer. Through the deepening darkness he had sensed something. But, what was it?

We live on the edge of the forest and deer are plentiful. At night we often hear coyotes howling at the moon. Had one of these creatures ventured too close to my home? I strained my eyes and stared into the gloaming. There was definitely a lone figure that I  could barely make out, right near the back fence! I stared, Tyler stared, but no one was moving - not dog, not man, not the intruder.

“Who’s there?” I called out. No answer came. The standoff continued.

A minute passed and then another. Tyler growled in earnest and I must admit I was feeling sketchy. Why didn’t the stranger move or make a sound? Something? The more I stared, the creepier things got. I began to edge backward, not wanting to turn my back to the scene. Still no movement from the lone figure near the fence. Was he taunting us? I took a few more backward steps and then, (yes, I admit it) I broke into a dead run for the porch, a bit more spooked than I would like to own up to. Calling to my wife, I exclaimed, “There’s someone out there in the yard! He’s just well… standing there!”

With a wry grin, Amanda looked back at me, hovering behind her. “That would be the snowman I made with the kids this afternoon,” she informed me. “I don’t expect it to move much.”

Often, the things that frighten us are really harmless. Our imaginations carry us to heights beyond reason. We play out scenarios and confrontations in our heads that we suppose might happen - but they are not reality. We avoid someone in the grocery store or ignore a phone call from a certain person on our caller ID. We leave the mail from the bill collector unopened on our  desk. We run away from perceptions of trouble when, with a little courage, we could replace that perception with reality. Perhaps you have been running from a “snowman” for quite some time now. It’s worth a closer look. Imagine that.

The Scriptures say that if we resist the devil - he will flee. We don’t have to be the ones running from trouble. Stand and hold your ground. Trouble has a way of melting away when we do.