It was a run I was looking forward to. I had missed so many. The week prior to our leave I had to forgo the run in order to get as much done as possible. As it was I stayed up all night the day we left finishing up work. This week in the Ukraine has been so full with excitement, appointments and adjusting to jet lag that I never got a chance to hit the road till today. Now, I'm no runner (or else I would have been out despite all those obstacles), but I enjoy keeping fit and the time it affords me to pray & reflect, and I do enjoy that a lot. I knew after missing 2 weeks I should just take it slow & build up to my usual distance (plus Kiev has much steeper hills than I am used to).
I got up early and planned out my circuit, starting out slow and steady. About half way through the course, on my way back I noticed some dogs on the other side of the road. I had seen them before. Kiev seems to have spots that are more habitable for strays and we have been told to keep away from them. I actually recognized one that we had seen before when we were at the Ministry of Social Policy, waiting behind the building. She was a female who must have had some young ones recently by the size of her paps. Either way I paid them all little attention and continued on my merry way. Suddenly, this same dog found something amiss with me and started to charge at me full steam from across the street, barking and growling. Why this one out of the pack I don't know. Why me I also don't know.
Now I have always thought what I would do should I ever meet an aggressive animal on such a run. What would you do? Well, in Michigan I would grab the nearest stick (they are around everywhere I happen to run) or take out my pocket knife or maybe use the flashlight on my phone (don't laugh ... I really did think that could be an effective tool) to scare them away or fend them off with my bare hands as a last resort. Well all that planning did no good as I stopped dead in my tracks without my phone, knife or any sign of a stick in this urban landscape. My hands were useless to me and I was frozen. Not only was this dog bearing down on me, but I was catatonic. There was a Ukrainian man behind me that I had just passed that saw the whole thing and I heard a fearful noise come from him. I can only say fearful noise, for I don't know if it was in another language that he spoke or if it was just one of those instinctive sounds you make without thinking when you see something dire about to happen or get shocked by electricity.
The dog was barreling and growling and now only about 6 feet away when all of a sudden it turned on its heel 90 degrees and ran away behind me in silence. I could hardly believe what just happened. It was if she ricocheted off something like in a game of pool where the ball continued off in a direction at an angle equal to the incident attack. In looking back, I don't even remember how I cried out to God for help. I certainly didn't verbalized anything in those seconds, and it was just a flash of a prayer, but He did hear me at the moment I needed Him. In the relief I felt with disaster averted, as I finished up my run, two thoughts occupied me. One was a song of thanks that immediately came to my head written from the Psalms:
"Oh Lord you are a shield about me
You're my glory, the lifter of my head"
The second thought that came was what we were just reading together as a family yesterday about an angel who was sent to punish Israel after David fell into temptation to number his people(see 1Chronicles 21). This angel (only one angel) killed 70,000 with a pestilence and was about to destroy Jerusalem with his sword drawn and ready to strike (what would such an amazing sword even look like I imagine?!). I was wondering if there was an angel with a sword with me on my run today. Maybe it was like the scene that Baalam saw? I wish I could have seen it. On second thought, maybe it was grace that I didn't, for 'Mr Catatonic' probably would have passed out for the sight of the angel himself much less anything else supernatural.
What I do know is that I am grateful for my God the Shield, and for the many others who have been praying protection over us during our stay here.
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah (Psalm 3:1-8 ESV)