Disoriented, I woke with a jolt on June 4th and looked around the unfamiliar room. It was hot and I was lying on top of the bed with just a thin blanket covering me.The blinds covering the window to my left were closed, but I could see sunlight peeping through the slats.
My family had arrived in London 48 hours ago, and my biological rhythm was still out of sync. I looked at my phone: 5:26 a.m. Ugh. I saw that I had several unread text messages, so I started scrolling through them:
“OMG, are you guys ok?”
“So, I’m sure y’all are fine, but I still wanted to check.”
“I need to hear from you that you guys are safe.”
Clearly, something had happened. I quickly pulled up the news on my phone and read the headline: “London Attack: Seven Killed in Vehicle and Stabbing Incidents.” The article explained that three men drove a van into a group of pedestrians on London Bridge at 10 p.m. the prior night and proceeded to stab people in a nearby market.
I immediately responded to the text messages, “We are fine. We were back to our flat by 9 p.m. Just learning about the attack.” Then I laid there, in the quiet of Sunday morning, praying and reflecting.
Our trip to Europe was one that our family had dreamed of for years and planned for during the previous twelve months. Yet, as it drew near, I found fear creeping around the edges of our upcoming adventure more and more often. I had not traveled overseas in twenty years, so just the thought of the long plane ride evoked angst.
Then there was the news. Each week it seemed a story on the morning programs would elicit my alarm. During the year of planning, horrific violence occurred in France, Germany, England, and Sweden. Less than two weeks before our departure, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester, England. Even air travel seemed to go berserk the month before we left, with arguments between flight staff and passengers and chaos happening on the tarmac and in the air. “Home” sounded really good (and really safe). However, in the end it came down to faith versus fear. I know it’s cliché, but sometimes a cliché nails it.
We refused to give fear the power, so we went.
Our first two days in London were dreamy. We visited St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, ate pub food, and walked through gardens and along the Thames. We were captivated by the city’s history and beauty. We were charmed by the people we encountered, who were friendly, kind, and engaging. Fear was forgotten.
Then, with the news of the attack, fear returned like an uninvited guest who defiantly refused to leave. That morning we planned to travel to Redeemer Church, located in the Borough of Croydon, and I felt relieved as we boarded the Underground to head out of the city. However, my relief was short lived when, at each stop, more and more people boarded our car. Fear scooted closer in the crowd.
Every passenger looked suspicious, every backpack threatening. My anxiety level rose. Panic flirted with me. I cast lingering glances at Tim, sitting across from me, and willed him to read my mind: “Should we get off of this train?” He just looked at me quizzically while fear pressed in tight. I glanced at the map located above Tim’s head: six more stops, five more stops, four more stops…
A determined effort to restrain tears kept me busy until we reached our exit at Waterloo Station. I burst from the car, trying to shake the fear. We rushed past armed policemen, boarded a train to Croydon, and eventually navigated several blocks to the elementary school where the young church meets. I felt like a character in a thriller, trying to escape the villain. Fear finally began to lag behind.
At Redeemer, we experienced peace in the midst of their fellowship. People spanning ages, races, and nationalities sat side by side on folding chairs. They welcomed us four strangers into their midst, and together we sang:
When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
Christ alone; cornerstone; weak made strong in the Saviour’s love.
Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.
Our declaration was a timely reminder that our anchor holds despite the fear we may face and the evil we may encounter.
After the service, we joined the pastor, his family, and a few church members for lunch. We carried tables and chairs outside the pastor’s home, arranged them on the lovely lawn, and gathered to eat, talk, and laugh. It was an idyllic afternoon. In the midst of it, God reminded me of the previous two days in London and stirred hope for the coming two weeks. Fear had used the London attack to distract me. God was using this sweet fellowship to set my heart at peace and anchor me in Him for the remainder of our adventure.
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.