I walked out to my car after I got up, opened the door, and saw that it was gone. The "it" was my Epiphone DOT ES335, Gold Tone. Beautiful guitar. It's a semi hollow body, with gold knobs and tuners. Tobacco sunburst. Absolutely gorgeous...for a guitar. The strap was a Father's Day gift from my kids. Gone. I knew what had happened instantly.
I immediately checked the other cars and the camper, then the garage. My car was the only one hit evidently. I came in the house, sent my neigbor a text and told him to check his vehicles.
I was shaking.
I knew what the guitar and strap cost, and knew it would be pointless to call my insurance company. They were gone. You hardly ever get things back once they've been stolen.
My first stop was city hall. I needed to file a report. I told them about my car. Told them my neighbor's truck had been hit, too. While the clerk was on the phone with the sheriff's office, she told me that another neighbor had been hit, too. The thief actually broken into his garage. At least he didn't try to get into my house.
After a pretty lengthy conversation with a deputy sheriff, and our city police chief, we started to put a few things together that might lead to an arrest. It was a long shot, but at least it was a shot.
What really bothered me wasn't the guitar. I can buy another guitar. What bothered me was the fact that we were all asleep inside the house while someone was in our driveway going through my stuff. My sense of security was gone. You can't replace that. The police can't get it back. You can't buy it at the store. I've loaded my shotgun and put it within easy reach, made sure all of the windows are locked, and left the outside lights on, but that sense of security is still gone.
Then I got a text from our police chief yesterday. They caught him. They found my guitar. My first thought was "I wonder how long they'll lock this guy up for?" Then I got a name. Then I looked him up on social media. Then I saw his face. He's just a kid...with a brand new baby.
Suddenly, and for reasons I can't explain, everything changed. I wasn't mad anymore. I should have been. This kid came into my driveway, stole my guitar out of my car, and took away my family's sense of security. I wasn't mad anymore. Instead, I started thinking about that baby, and the picture of him holding her was seered into my brain.
This morning I called our county attorney. She's a friend of mine. I told her that I wanted this kid to know, and I didn't understand why, but I wasn't mad at him; and that, as the victim here, I wanted to see him in rehab instead of jail. Monday morning I wanted to lock him up myself, but not now.
The anger was gone, and today I want to see this kid get some help. I'm even willing to walk with him through the process.
Now, before you start saying, "Look at what a good guy this dude is..." Don't. I'm not. If I had walked out Monday morning when my dog started barking and actually caught him in my car this story might have a completely different ending. It's just that something happened last night, and this morning, that I can't explain. Yes I can.
See, church folk have this annoying little habit of just throwing bible verses at folks willy nilly. It enfuriates me. Many times, though, it's what we're known for. This week I've had the "turn the other cheek" text, something from Ephesians, and a general statement about the fact that I'm a pastor and I'm not supposed to let folks know I'm mad thrown in my face...by church folk.
It's not helpful. At all.
And I promise you that it had absolutely nothing...zero...zilch...nada...to do with the fact that I woke up feeling differently about this kid today.
Yes, I know that I'm held to a little higher standard, as screwed up as that is, but I just needed to be mad for a while.
What church folks are not so great at sometimes, is compassion. Not just for folks who look, act, and live like we do...but for folks who feel that the only way they can get something to eat or a place to sleep is to steal from someone else.
See, my job deals with grace...a lot. I talk about the God of second chances, third, fourth, fifth chances. If you're at Grace Church on any given Sunday morning you're going to hear something about grace. Why? Because that's the Good News. I deal with alchoholics, addicts, folks in recovery, folks with long criminal records, and folks still in jail. I've been lied to, lied about, thrown under the bus, called names, had my own name dragged through the mud, and that list goes on and on. But because of what I do, I try to look past that. Forgive and you shall be forgiven, right? It says something like that.
Monday morning, I wanted none of that, though. Just being honest. I wanted this guy caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. I wanted to hear the judge hand down the absolute maximum sentence. I felt violated. I was scared. I felt like I had lost all sense of control.
Then last night I thought, "Maybe I can help this kid turn things around so that baby doesn't grow up without a daddy." I don't know if I can or not, but that's not the point.
The point is...my anger, for reasons beyond my understanding, has turned into a sense of compassion for the very kid that stole from me. It makes no freaking sense. None at all...but that's where I am now.
This Sunday's message is about community and kingdom accountability. We hold each other accountable for our actions. The things we do affect more than just us. But within community there is also support.
The lesson for me in all of this is more than the fact that I'm the pastor and I'm not supposed to cuss when I'm mad or scared. Some folks think that. The lesson for me is that when folks are at a point in their life when the only path they see is one of illegal activities, or if they've been caught in addictions, or if they've finally hit rock bottom and actually survived, that's when they need us the most.
I can't say for certain, but I have a feeling that he would have looked at this kid, said "Don't do it again," and gotten him some help. That's just a guess.
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