That’s not to say I didn’t have any reactions. In fact, I’m still trying to work through all the ruminations and reactions I’m having as a result of this relatively minor event in our lives. All through that brief experience—as the policeman took down the report, as we talked to with the shop owner and as we drove away from the shop—I was haunted by a profound sense of aching sadness whenever I thought about the man who broke into the car. Everyone has written him off as a lost cause, as was probably the case most of his life. He’s so far down the wrong road that it would be difficult to turn back. My heart aches for his life, because God misses him, wants him, and loves him and he doesn’t know that.
This reaction caught me off guard because I know me and that’s not something I’d come up with on my own. It came because God is working in my heart to give me his heart. People matter to God—all people. Even those who hurt us.
And that realization brought on a slew of other thoughts. For example, this guy didn’t really hurt us badly. It was a possession that mattered little to us, if at all. I don’t know how I would have reacted if it was my house, my family or friends who had been attacked instead of that clunker of a car. Then there’s the fact that this incident was so surreal because I don’t run into folks like him much in my day-to-day life—and that’s evidence that my life is too well insulated, because I’m living in a town with lots of extreme poverty. And there’s the realization that people like him wouldn’t feel comfortable in the middle- and upper-class church that I go to. And that reinforced all the more my conviction that we must be the church and the way we are "doing church" now really isn’t working.
And, while all those thoughts are still swirling in my head, I’m also thinking how good it would be for this town to have a VORP (Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program): a “restorative justice approach that bring offenders face-to-face with the victims of their crimes with the assistance of a trained mediator, usually a community volunteer.” It involves meetings between the victims and offenders, finding a way to make restitution (monetary or symbolic). Statisticaly, offenders who face their victims and go through this process commit fewer and less serious offenses than offenders who are processed thorugh our traditional justice system. Programs like these offer a chance people to get on the right road and a community to participate in that restoration.
I’m not even close to wrapping up these thoughts up in a box with a neat, ribbon-tied bow. In fact, I think these thoughts are more about unpacking a too-long-stored box than packing one up. And I’m not sure I’m liking everything I’m unpacking. However, I am grateful for how God works—how he takes events like these and invites me to think deeper about how he’s transforming me as well as the weak points when it comes to my faith and trust in him. How he invites me to think about the community I live in, about his great and profound love for people. He uses events like this to take scales off my eyes and help me see reality and who he is. It’s not easy or comfortable. But it's real.
(Image: what used to be my car)