Much of the nation was watching. After all, it had been a shocking morning in Atlanta. A prisoner, on trial for rape, wrestles a gun away from a Sheriff’s Deputy. The prisoner, Brian Nichols, guns down the judge, the court reporter, a Sheriff’s Deputy, and a Federal Agent. Four people dead. All of Atlanta is frozen as an intense manhunt continues throughout the day.
Meanwhile, in nearby Duluth, a single parent, 26 year old Ashely Smith has just moved into a new apartment. At 2:00 AM, she goes to a convenience store. A short time later she returns and is about to enter her apartment. In the darkness, Nichols approaches her and puts his gun to her side. He ties her up. Then the following takes place as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (also see Get Religion):
He unbinds her and they sit in her living room.
"I’ve had a really long day," he says.
He offers her some faint explanation — maybe his first to account to anyone of how he had spent this long day.
"I feel like I’m a warrior. The people of my color have gone through a lot."
But he says he’s had enough.
"I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore," he tells her. "I don’t want to kill anybody.
"I want to rest."
The atmosphere becomes more normal, as normal as it could be.
Smith asks if he would mind if she reads.
Nichols says OK.
She gets the book she’d been reading, "The Purpose Driven Life." It is a book that offers daily guidance. She picks up where she had left off — the first paragraph of the 33rd chapter.
"We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others you’ve arrived. In our self serving culture with its me first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept."
He stops her and asks her to read that again.
No doubt you heard the rest of the story. She continued to talk with him. He gave himself up without hurting anyone else.
There is something about this story that I find very engaging. Ashley Smith. She had experienced a rough life. Her husband died in her arms four years earlier, stabbed to death. She had been in some trouble with the law years earlier. DUI. Petty theft. Some of her relatives had acknowledged that she had "made some mistakes."
Yet, she had begun to seek the Lord. She deeply desired to know what her life was for. She had been reading her Bible and The Purpose Driven Life. So when her life was on the line, she picked up her Bible and a book that was helping her find direction.
There is something about this story that I find very fascinating. Maybe it is because I envision other Ashley Smiths coming to hear Jesus in the first century. Jesus had a way of attracting sinners, people who had made lots of mistakes, people who didn’t grow up "going to church." There were plenty of simple people who saw in Jesus–hope.
This is not a story about a church going person who hasn’t touched his Bible since last Sunday. This is a story about a woman who has been seeking God and a purpose for her life.
You might be interested in the text of a recent message entitled "Help For Those Who Need a Second Chance" #1 It is posted on the right hand bar.