It was a dark and gloomy night in Ukraine. The wind whipped the trees against the house. Rain tiptoed across the window panes. We had driven a few hours in the rain, and Michael, my host and guide, had just dropped me off at the large guest house. He helped me carry my luggage up the steps and through the front door. After examining all four rooms circling the foyer upstairs, we found one that was ready for guests. The bed was made and inviting. It was next to the bathroom. We lugged the suitcases upstairs. Michael informed me that I had the big house all to myself.
After Michael left, I took the clothes I needed the next morning out of the suitcases and hung them up. I went downstairs to explore a little before I went to bed. Many rooms were scattered throughout the house. It was a large house indeed! I found a magazine to read in bed that should help me unwind from the long day.
Rain continued to pepper the window, while the trees beat the siding without regard to my desire for quiet and comfort. The walls creaked under the weather’s relentless assault. After I turned off the light, every sound seemed to amplify the dismal attack on the house. It took a while to relax under the stress of another culture and the effects that the weather made on the house. As I lay there, the house became rather creepy. I should never have done it, but I fell asleep, in a very large empty house groaning and creaking on a dismal night of pounding rain and angry wind.
With a start I awoke. I had heard something. I lay very quietly and listened carefully. Something had awakened me. Did it come from the outside or inside of the house? Suddenly I heard it—the sound of footsteps at 1:00 o’clock in the night! Footsteps were investigating the house! Since the house was so large, the footsteps would fade as the intruder investigated the various rooms, but when the footsteps came back to the foyer at the bottom of the stairs, they became louder.
Suddenly everything was quiet—too quiet. I heard my heart beating against my chest. Rain tapped on the window; trees brushed the siding. Footsteps sounded on the steps! They were coming upstairs. I sat up in my bed. What could I do?
Slowly and deliberately the footsteps came upstairs, ever closer to where I sat in muted fear. At the top of the steps they paused. The silence was frightening, but still better than the sound of footsteps. Then the footsteps began again, going into a bedroom. After another period of silence they came out and went to another room. A few minutes later, they came out and went to the bathroom. My bedroom was next! I wondered what weapon the footsteps had? Was it a knife, red with the blood of others, a stained wooden club, or maybe a heavy chain to tie up the victim? I trembled. What would those heavy footsteps mean once they found me in bed alone and defenseless! Who was it? What was it?
The footsteps came out of the bathroom, walked deliberately toward my bedroom, and paused. This was it. This was the beginning of the end. A foreboding like the invasion of a dozen mice crept over me. A footstep started again, and paused. Another, and another, and then they went into the next room. I strained my ears and listened. What was happening in that room?
Finally the footsteps came out of the room, went back down the steps, and retreated into silence. I quickly got out of bed to watch the front door under the window. I kept a watch on the door for quite a while, but nothing happened. No monster, no sinister murderer appeared at the door. No sound was heard on the floor below me. The monster stayed inside, with his blood stained knife. Did he, or whatever it was, know I was in that bedroom? Was he, or it, scheming my demise? After a long vigil at the window, I finally crept into bed and listened. Nothing. He, the footsteps, must have left.
“Okay, Lord, I need some sleep. It is already 1:00 a.m. and I have to get up at 5. Protect me, and give me rest.”
Suddenly the footsteps appeared on the stairs again. They were coming for me! Tensely I waited. Why would I have to die in a strange land? Surely Lord, you have a better way for me to die than to die in a strange country in the middle of the night in a dreary house!
The footsteps stopped in the hallway outside my room. Suddenly I decided that this would never do. These footsteps had no right stepping into my life like this. I would not be scared by, I did not know what. I became a little indignant. My indignation led to boldness. Maybe it was a foolish boldness, but before I could think through things, I heard myself speak, a little too loudly, “Who are you? What do you want?”
Everything was silent. I waited and then spoke again, “Who are you?”
The footsteps found a voice. It answered in a language I did not understand.
“I have no idea what you are saying. Speak English. What are you doing in this house?”
The footsteps spoke again, this time in a language I could understand. In German, the voice said, “I am Frederick from Germany. Do you speak German?”
Ah, the blessings of communication. A voice with words that could be understood! The monster had a harmless voice.
“Yes, I speak German. What are you doing here?”
“I am going to sleep here.”
I thought a few seconds. It seemed harmless enough. What could I do about it? I could not very well tell him he could not stay. It wasn’t my house. “Oh. Okay. Guten nacht,” I answered.
“Lord, as I was saying, I need to sleep. I don’t know who this man is and what he is doing here, but keep me safe.”
I rolled over to sleep, confident that no one could murder me unless God wanted me murdered. The footsteps went into the next room, the rain played tic-tac-toe on the window, the wind beat the trees, the trees brushed the house, and I slept.
The next morning I awoke very early to discover that I had not been murdered in the night. Tiptoeing into the hall, I saw the bedroom door next to mine open a few inches. I peered inside. Sure enough, someone was in the bed. I tiptoed to the bathroom where I noticed that the shower was not in the best condition. I decided to take a shower in the downstairs bathroom beside the entrance door.
When I was finished, I went back upstairs. It looked like the door of the bedroom where the intruder was sleeping was open a tiny bit more than I remembered. I tiptoed over and peered inside. The intruder was gone! Was he hiding in my bedroom ready to pounce on me the moment I went inside? Cautiously, I peered inside. No menacing footsteps, no foreign voice greeted me. He had left when I was in the shower, downstairs, beside the front door. He must have slipped past the bathroom and gone outside into the gloomy night. It was only 5:00. He did not get more sleep than I had.
I packed and went downstairs to wait on my ride. It was now about 6:00 a. m. when Michael pulled in and came to the door to help me with the luggage. I told him what had happened. He was stunned. “As far as I know, no one was supposed to be in the house.”
We left the house. The rain had stopped pelting the windows, the wind was no longer beating against the branches, the branches had ceased whipping the house, the footsteps had left, and I was safely secured in Michael’s van.
I thanked God for the day.