A true ‘Valley of death’ Winner

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for you are with me. . . ” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)

If God called your number in a life-threatening, ‘valley of death’ situation, would you have responded as this Georgia school bookkeeper did? Antoinette Tuff is surely a profile in Christian Courage!   A few excerpts, from a CNN piece by John Blake, will hopefully give you a flavor of how one child of God saved hundreds of elementary school children last year.

All the quotes in this post are from:  “She survived a standoff with a gunman — could you?” (by John Blake/CNN)

  • “This is not a joke,” the gun-toting man angrily shouts at Tuff. “I need you to understand this is not a joke.    I am here.    This is real.    We are all going to die today.”

  • She wasn’t originally scheduled to be at work that day. Tuff was “filling in for the front office receptionist as a favor.    Now she is the only one standing between the gunman and 800 children at an elementary school just outside Atlanta . . . Tuff began her day by reading [the 23rd Psalm].    As she watches the gunman raise his [loaded AK-47] rifle to fire, Tuff realizes she is no longer just sitting in a school.    She is in the valley of death.” (from CNN story with videos).
  • While too terrified to speak when the agitated man first entered the front office, her empathy and poise helped make the school standoff end peacefully.   A Christ-abiding mother of two grown children, she:

tells the gunman she can let police know that he didn’t harm her. She offers to walk outside with him so they won’t harm him.

[Tuff and the man] talk more, and she negotiates his surrender with the 911 dispatcher as the gunman lies on the floor and places his rifle on a counter.

“I really messed up,” the gunman tells Tuff as he waits for the police to enter the office.

“It’s going to be all right sweetie,” Tuff tells him. “I just want you to know I love you, OK, and I am proud of you.  That’s a good thing you’ve given up, and don’t worry about it.   We all go through something in life.”

I’d planned to write about this phenomenal story in September . . . as one of the first posts for this blog.   As I read John Blake’s CNN story, which a former college classmate had posted on Facebook, it literally brought a tear of joy to my eye.    While I’d heard the story before, witnessing (again) how God works in us when we allow Him to do so just made me joyful – in who He is and what one Christian woman did through Him.   When her number was called, Tuff bravely answered.   She’s surely a ‘Valley of death’ Winner!

Faith in the Workplace

At times, we are called in ways, ordinary and extraordinary, to act as faithful, abiding Christians – not emotional, reactive followers.   Often a Christian’s ‘small’ acts (not a few large ones) speak loudest on who they are . . . and God’s central role in their life, on and off the job.    In the workplace, a hundred small acts of kindness can reveal a Christians’ faith and values as well as a single, large act can.

  • Whose you are is more important than who you are – as reflected in your Title, a corner office, or the degrees hanging on your office wall.

Tuff tells her story in her new book, Prepared for a Purpose.   She attributes her actions to God.    I love witnessing good things occur that I know are due to the Lord – not a man, woman, or a young child.    Her candor, her humbly giving God the glory, in the school standoff story, is refreshing.    Quite simply, how this faithful Christian lived her life saved a lot of lives that Summer day in Georgia.

As the CNN reporter states in his piece:

“If you’re with someone who is lighthearted and happy, you’re going to feel the same emotions,” [Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival,] says. “She transmitted these feelings from her own deep beliefs and sincerity, and he caught this emotional message from her.    It completely disabled him.”

Tuff didn’t know she was so poised during the standoff.

“I thought I was screaming,” she says today.   “I didn’t realize how calm I was.    I went back to listen to the (911) tape and it was like I didn’t even recognize who I was.    I could not repeat what I said if you asked me.    I had no idea what I was saying.   I know it was God.

  • Tuff, a profile in bravery, knew the Lord was with her.   She gave Him the credit for what she’d done during the potentially deadly standoff at the elementary school outside of Atlanta GA. 
  • Gospel: For Thou Art With Me (The Whispers)

Anchoring: A Lord-listening Ritual

As John Blake states in his CNN article:

Tuff calls it anchoring.”   It’s the spiritual practice she incorporated into her life that she says helped her during the standoff.

She goes to sleep every night with an audiobook of the Bible playing softly by her bed to instill a sense of peace.   At 5 each morning she listens to gospel songs, talks out loud to God and reads the Bible.   She ends her anchoring practice by sitting in silence for 15 minutes, waiting to hear God.

“Trust me, sitting for 15 minutes isn’t as easy as it sounds,” she says in [her new book].  “I could sit and watch a TV show for an hour, but listening for the Lord for 15 minutes was a challenge.    I had to work on it.   I had to practice.”

Tuff wasn’t just a receptionist when the gunman entered the office.   She was like a finely tuned spiritual athlete.   She was ready. [Emphasis added]

*   *    *

The God-strengthened bookkeeper at the Georgia school “started off as his victim, then turned herself into his messenger, confidant, protector and mother before reverting to what she was all along: A survivor.”    Because she had more than ‘Georgia on her mind’, because Antoinette Tuff surely kept her mind stayed on the Lord, she masterfully kept a lot of people (including herself) from being killed or shot.    The God in her stepped in; He transformed an initially terrified person into a life-saving hero.

Thankfully, while Christian courage doesn’t always mean being brave in life-threatening situations, at times it does.   How would you have reacted if you were staring down the barrel of a gun that day?  

God-willing you’ll never be in such a life-threatening situation.   Strive to be courageous and ‘untimid’ in the routine situations you face at work; pray that, if you ever are, you’ll be brave, empathic, and calm like Antoinette Tuff was.   The God in her allowed the humble school bookkeeper to prevent Decatur GA from suffering the pain of Newtown CT.

Allow the Lord to be bigger than any career problem you face.    If He’s for you, who can be against you?    You’re never in life’s valleys alone.   Never.   To God be the glory!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you.

Greg Silverthorne

66 Assurance Way

Last modified:  May 28. 2014


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