Kiper and the Burglar

Kiper and the Burglar

I had come home to my parents’ house in Dallas—the house in which I had grown up—for the Thanksgiving holidays. It was my sophomore year in college. As usual, I was on a screwed-up sleep schedule, and sometime after 1:00 in the morning I loosed Kiper, our highly undisciplined beagle, from his tether and went on a walk.

For years, beginning in high school, I had followed the same route on my frequent late-night walks: down Forest Hills for about a mile; left on San Rafael for four blocks; left again onto San Benito, which would point me back toward home. I had followed that route hundreds of times, usually late at night. It did not occur to me to do anything different on this night.

As always, Kiper ranged widely, sniffing and running and sniffing some more, staying within a couple hundred feet of me but otherwise following his nose (there were no leash laws, in case you’re wondering), spending inordinate amounts of time plowing through shrubbery surrounding the houses.

As I walked, words jumped unbidden into my mind: “Don’t walk down San Benito.” I immediately dismissed them, wondering where in the world that thought had come from.

Again the command came, “Don’t walk down San Benito!” I thought it was weird and sort of stupid. I always walked down San Benito; it was the prettiest street on the route. I had followed this route on hundreds of occasions. I dismissed the strange idea again, and it remained gone. But I did feel just a teensy bit uneasy.

It was a quiet, middle-upper-class suburban area. I had seen only a couple of cars since I left home. One of those cars, however, slowed behind me and then pulled up directly to my left. A bright light shone into my eyes. I was pretty spooked, even after I discovered it was a cop. He asked me who I was, where I lived, what I was doing out at such a late hour, etc. I pointed to Kiper, explaining that I was taking a walk with my dog. Kiper at that time was snuffling noisily in a hedge bordering someone’s living room.

Once he was satisfied that I had no nefarious intentions, the officer asked, “Are you planning to walk down San Benito?”

“I usually do. Why?” I replied.

“Over the past couple of weeks, a burglar has broken into several houses on San Benito late at night, while the residents were asleep. At this point a lot of the people are so nervous that they’re staying up all night with their guns at the ready, just waiting for the guy to try their house. With your dog making all that ruckus, and with you walking mysteriously here in the dark, there’s a real good chance they’ll shoot your dog or, more likely, shoot you. Just don’t set foot on San Benito.”

I assured him I would follow his instructions, and thanked him, whereupon he drove off.

And I thanked God. This was the first time, so far as I was consciously aware, that God had spoken directly to me. I had no other explanation, and I needed no other. It was obvious. At that time I was a member of a highly legalistic Christian sect (having been converted to it just before I graduated from high school). That sect taught that the Holy Spirit ceased all direct interactions with believers after the biblical canon was complete. God did not speak to people. God did not directly answer prayer.

On this occasion, God very possibly saved my life. And he created a major crack in the legalistic theology that had me enslaved at that time.