The Way MakerPosted January 19th, 2012
by Frances C. Hansen
My Vietnam veteran husband left on foot one morning, dejected. All he knew was that he had to try to earn some income. He was employed as a salesman for a freezer plan. There was no gas in the car and no money to buy any. The phone company had turned off the phone. I didn’t see how he could possibly sell anything as despondent as he was, but he wanted to try. He agreed that he would be home by three o’clock. Phil was fighting his way through post-traumatic stress disorder. In his case it manifested itself, not as rage, but as a flight-versus-fight response. We were under lots of stress. He was desperate.
So Phil ended up stealing a car that day, and drove it all around the city. When police caught up with him they assumed he had a gun, because that’s what they had been told. Earlier in the day Phil had ended up at a car dealership and decided to take a test drive. While on the test drive, he and the car salesman had stopped at a gas station. When the salesman got out, Phil drove off.
Phil was charged with armed robbery and faced an automatic minimum sentence of four years in the penitentiary. We had two children in diapers. I was overwhelmed. Later in the day the whole incident was covered on the evening news.
As long as the district attorney believed the incorrect information about the weapon, there was not even a plea bargain option. My parents bailed Phil out of jail that night, mortgaging their property to demonstrate their confidence in his wounded character.
I remember clearly the mocking words of the judge in the courtroom. He either didn’t care or didn’t understand what war veterans were going through.
“Well, maybe we’ll find another veteran who believes that stealing cars is wrong,” the judge had said. It took great restraint on my part not to jump out of my seat in an emotional frenzy.
Days passed. I prayed in fear instead of faith, begging God to keep Phil from going to prison. I pictured myself, worn out and haggard, for four years, changing diapers and raising two children on my own.
The Vector of Faith
One night, the realization came that my prayers were not going forth on the vector of faith. My supplications changed. Even though I couldn’t see it, I thanked God, in faith, for taking the situation and altering the whole hopeless-looking mess.
Then a new district attorney took office. It came to light that the car salesman, during Phil’s fateful test drive, was a fresh parolee. Because he feared losing his first job out of prison he had lied that Phil had a gun. As quickly as it had been entered, the charge of armed robbery was dropped. Now a plea bargain was possible. Soon thereafter, Phil was placed on five years of probation. He couldn’t leave the county, but it was far better than being incarcerated.
Several people wrote letters on Phil’s behalf, declaring his upstanding character. Ironically, Phil obtained a job as director of a halfway house for formerly incarcerated men who were returning to the community. He became their mentor, working for a season without pay until anticipated grant money came through. Phil’s probationary time was cut in half. God changed what looked impossible. Phil was on his way to healing and a fresh start.
As time progressed, tremendous lessons grew from our experience: The choice is always ours. Faith moved God’s hand. Victory was gained.
In today’s uncertain times, we may feel faint with fear. Doom and gloom may haunt us. We may waiver, tormented by unknown possibilities. But with small steps of faith strength rises, tenacity swells, God sees us through. Once again we overcome.