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What the Thieves Couldn’t Steal

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Last Friday, we walked outside after karate class and I immediately felt the heat.  For the beginning of October it was hot!  In the 90s!  The woman whose car was parked next to mine saw the glass first.  She yelled over—“Is this your vehicle?”  It took me a minute to see why she was asking, but when I saw the shattered glass of my window, most of it bowing outwards as though there had been an internal explosion, I went numb.  I knew my plans for the rest of the day were immediately changed.

I was in partial shock, not knowing what to do, when a bystander suggested I ask at the front desk if there were any cameras in the parking lot that might show what happened.  I snapped a photo on my phone, walked inside, and showed it to the woman working.  When she asked if there was anything missing from my van, it struck me for the first time that someone may have done this damage intentionally.  That thought literally hadn’t crossed my mind as I had been thinking it must have been some act of God or an accidental rock or something!  Anything but someone intentionally trying to cause harm.

My stomach sank as I remembered the items I had left in my van during karate: my purse and laptop.  I quickly walked back outside, afraid to see vacancies where the items had been.  I peered into the window through the broken glass.  My things were gone. 

The theft was quite brazen.  My van was parked in the front row—by the building!  The parking spot was right in front of the manager’s window and in a fitness center parking lot with people constantly coming and going. 

The manager had followed me back outside and she said she would call the police for me.  The kids—mine and others from karate—kept trying to touch the glass still attached to the window, or pick up pieces off the ground.  As stressed as I was about the theft itself, having a half dozen boys around all that glass was immediately more pressing.  I called my parents, who lived close by, and my dad came to get the kids while I waited. 

Eventually the other families said their condolences and goodbyes and I was left alone with the karate instructor and fitness center employees.  Thankfully the instructor insisted I sit inside the building and wait for the police, instead of the hot sun I had been standing in.  We sat by the door where we could easily keep an eye on the van and wait.

My things were gone.  The purse and its’ contents made me sad, but the loss of the laptop left me stunned.  Hours upon hours of work was just suddenly gone.  Documents I’d created for school, documents I’d created for daily life, but most importantly of all; the drafts of a hospitality book I’ve been writing.  It wasn’t completed, but quite a bit of work had been done! 

Sitting there, at first all I could think about was what I had lost.  I wanted to weep.  Partly over the loss and partly over the feeling of violation.  Someone had intentionally wronged me!  However, thanks to my faith, I am stubbornly optimistic.  Although it was clear that the enemy had won a teeny tiny battle (it didn’t feel teeny tiny at the time, but perspective makes it teeny tiny), I know that God is the ultimate victor.  I decided right then that though the physical items might have been gone, my window was shattered, and my plans might have been altered, but my response was still mine to choose.  I wasn’t going to let some petty thief steal my joy, hope, or faith!

I didn’t know how long I would have to wait for the police, but I did know that as long as I sat there waiting I had the opportunity to begin bringing light to a dark situation.  I was able to start thinking of all the things I was thankful for.  A worship song popped into my head as well, and I softly sang to myself about God’s goodness.  Next I began texting friends about the situation, sending messages of hope in the midst of our painful frustrations or losses.  It’s great if I can work through something on my own, but how much more glorified will God be if we encourage others with the hope we have! 

I had to wait two and a half hours for the police to arrive!  I wasn’t happy with the situation, or the wait, but I was determined to honor God with my response.  The officers listened to the story for their report and said that the likelihood of recovering anything was slim to none.  It was what I expected—thefts like this one are very difficult to solve. 

Eventually I made it home.  The evening was quiet and I mourned my losses.  It is possible to be sad or angry while also worshipping and being hopeful.  I spent the weekend feeling exhausted from the stress of it all.  Looking for God in a situation does not automatically negate the emotions and stress.

I’m not really a purse person.  Meaning, I don’t have a collection of purses that I rotate between—I use one purse at a time for months or years.  The purse that was stolen had been my companion for almost a year.  I tend to be pretty unsentimental when it comes to things, however, that purse was special to me.  It was a nice leather handmade artisan purse from Honduras that I had won in a drawing last fall.  I received news of the prize while I was preparing food for a welcome home party for Steve.  He had just returned from his deployment and we were entering into the new season of figuring out what our family and life looked like.  A celebratory season, but also very emotionally demanding as I helped everyone to navigate the adjustment.  So when out of the blue I won that beautiful purse I felt loved, encouraged, and noticed.  It was a reminder that God takes care of us in the midst of us taking care of others. 

The realization of the loss has happened slowly as I’ve remembered various things I had in my purse or on my computer.  Sunday morning I got ready for church and absent-mindedly looked for my purse because I’d forgotten about the theft.  When I remembered that I no longer had my purse I had to feel the loss all over again.  And then when I was thinking that I should put on a little mascara I realized that my little makeup bag (a gift my Aunt purchased in Africa a decade ago) had been in there too. 

Still, things are just things, no matter how much sentiment is attached.  And even all the writing work that is now lost—it was an earthly thing.  God is not caught off-guard by the losses, His plans are not derailed or altered.  Our God is a restorer.

I’ve continued to look for ways to honor God with the situation.  My children were pretty quick to come to my defense and begin telling me all the ways they intended to avenge me.  In response to this I decided to bake heart-shaped sugar cookies for our next karate class.  Since many of the other kids saw the broken window, I had the instructor address class and explain how while I’m sad and angry I do not hate the people who did this.  There is a difference between revenge and justice, and true strength is having self-control to do what is right even when upset.

I may have lost earthly things that were important to me or difficult to replace.  I may have lost time and money as I deal with the consequences of someone else’s decision.  I may have lost comfort due to the negative feelings associated with the theft.  But while I should acknowledge my losses, I choose to focus on what I have gained.  I gained an opportunity to interact with people I would not have otherwise interacted with.  I gained an opportunity to surrender my work—something that I guess I needed to do!  I gained the opportunity to encourage others within my sphere of influence.  I gained the opportunity to set a positive example to my children and the other karate children.  I gained the opportunity to trust God and develop my faith. 

The other morning I woke up at 5 and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I began to pray about the situation.  Two very specific themes arose in my prayer: restoration and mercy.  I asked God to restore what I had lost, in the way He sees fit.  Perhaps He will miraculously send the same items back to me unharmed, or perhaps He will provide in a new way.  Regardless, I can be confident that the Lord will bring restoration to my life and work, and He can make things even better than they were before. 

I wanted to pray that the thieves would be caught due to their own greed, brought to justice, etc.  However, I found that I kept praying for mercy instead.  It is humbling to remember my own mistakes, and I know God has shown me mercy.  So while justice will eventually be served by God, I can pray that He uses this situation to get these people moving towards a path of righteousness.  I can pray that God would have mercy on them in their weakness and that they would come to honor Him with their future decisions. 

Maybe it seems far-fetched to think that their lives could be changed by what they did to me, but it’s certainly possible!  If you want to join me in prayer over this situation, please pray restoration for me and mercy for those who did the crime.  I am confident that God has, and still is, redeeming this situation for His glory!

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” -2 Corinthians 4:6-9

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