I would like to say I was deep in prayer, but I probably wasn't, as I strolled along Broadway through the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A young man, lurching unsteadily, approached me. He appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As we were about to pass each other, he flipped out a switchblade and went for my stomach. I quickly stepped around his knife, much as a busy New Yorker might step around someone passing out leaflets.
Instantly, I was deep in prayer. As I continued on my way, I was filled with gratitude to God for His protective presence. By the time I reached the end of the block, I realized that I was OK. But what about the young man with the knife? What about the other pedestrians? And what was I doing walking away? I ran back down the sidewalk to do something—I wasn't sure what—to protect both him and the public. But he had disappeared.
I salted the incident away and for a long time looked back on it with ambivalence. Eventually my gratitude for God's protection outweighed whatever disappointment I felt about the rest of the episode. But I still hoped for a second chance, another opportunity not just to find my own protection but also to see more of the divine law of safety at work on everyone's behalf.