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Thinking on cars, God, and unpacking boxes

A couple of nights ago, one of our cars (in the shop at the time) was broken into and ripped apart for a stereo that we bought new several years ago for a couple hundred dollars and a pair of $10 speakers. Turns out about five or six other cars were hit in neighboring businesses the same night. The damage done to our car was actually more than car is worth (for the most part, we tend to own pretty old clunkers). Neither my husband nor I were at all upset about the car itself. We don’t have any emotional attachment to it at all. The owner of the car repair shop where it was parked was a great deal more angry and upset—but then, it was his shop and he felt like the thief had really violated it.

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)


Kari Z. Murphy said…
"I was haunted with by a profound sense of aching sadness whenever I thought about the man who broke into the car."

Oh, Carmen! How thrilling to hear of how He's working in your heart. :) And comforting...because people think I am nuts when I think (or talk) like this, and I just want to scream, "I think Jesus really *meant it* when He said "Love your enemies!!!"

Mark recently brought a message at chapel about just that. Afterwards, one of the men said he thought it was a good message...but he knew all those texts - tell him HOW to love his enemies! Then he said he was coming to a greater and greater understanding that to love our enemies it wasn't anything we could do of our own accord. We had to die, to get out of the way, and just let Christ love through us. Which sounds so much like what you wrote here:

"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."

Awesome, awesome thoughts! Don't mean to sound trite, but I'm glad someone broke into your car! (You know what I mean, don't you?)

In Christ alone,
Carmen Andres said…
kari, thanks for your visit! i keep meaning to update your link on the sidebar but life keeps getting in the way, ack.

indeed, loving people who hurt or want to hurt us can't come from us, but only in Jesus living in us and changing our hearts. it's the way of the kingdom, this trust and living in and relying on Jesus. it comes only by seeking after him.

what i love about events like this is that God uses them to reveal himself and help us see. his is indeed a good God of revelation.

David said…
Great post Carmen. I have been thinking much about restorative justice also. It's amazing that we, as Christians, let ourselves get so wrapped up in the material things.
Carmen Andres said…
david, thanks for stopping by. a bit of an update: i found out that some of the individual courts here have their own restorative justice programs, so we are keeping track of those in case there's an arrest in the case. blessings, carmen
Greg said…
I ran across your blog because I work both in Restorative Justice at a public school system and a United Methodist youth ministry and am using the film Over the Hedge to illustrate how mediation, restoration and reconciliation are used in the movie to show a better way of life. Watch it again and see how those who use violence to get their way get violence in return and those who seek peace make peace.
Greg in Michigan