Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:32
On Tuesday morning I received a phone call, “Hello this is Janet (new name) from the sheriff’s office. Your car has been released and you can come pick it up.” “Thank you,” I said. “I’ll pick it up Wednesday morning.”
My heart jumped and sank at the same time with the phone call.
A few weeks ago, after a long peaceful walk in Sand Canyon, when I returned to the lower parking lot, my mom’s red Jeep Cherokee was gone. I could not believe it. I kept staring at the empty space where I parked thinking my eyes would somehow adjust and her car would magically appear, but it did not. Someone stole it.
I reported the theft to the county sheriff’s department who had no luck finding the car. All their leads faded in the blowing desert sand. Jennifer, my “wanna be” detective wife was mad. She took off on a wild goose chase to find our vehicle which led her to a used car lot in Cortez where she found our Jeep.
We had our car towed to the Cortez City Yard so the sheriff’s department could process the vehicle. Hence, the call saying they were done “investigating” the car and I could pick it up. The detective gave me the keys at the impound. “Make sure it starts.”
I opened the front door with a strip of red crime tape across it. The interior was a collage of dust and personal items belonging to me and the person who stole the car. I was happy to see my half full plastic water bottle with a green cap. My dad and I carried this bottle up and down mountains in the Pacific Northwest. I also noticed an empty plastic water bottle from Kroger (probably from City Market in Cortez) which the thief drank from. I held it and wondered if he thought about drinking from my water bottle.
The man also left a nearly full can of caffeine-free A&W Root Beer in the center drink holder. “Caffeine-free?” I thought to myself. “He didn’t drink much of it.” Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I’ll grab a can or bottle of Pepsi out of the convenience store cooler, pay for it, and discover when I get to the car, that I mistakenly grabbed a Cherry Pepsi or a Diet Pepsi. I’ll take a few sips but leave it full. Did the guy who stole our car, do this as well?
My wallet and my dad’s wallet (my mom kept it in the glove compartment), were laying in the front passenger seat. Everything was in them, including eighteen dollars of cash in mine. He didn’t use the money to buy the root beer or the bottle of water. An empty pack of Marlboros were on the floorboard. A few ashes scattered on the center console. Did he roll down the window when he smoked in our car?
Someone partially pulled out the sound system which was hanging from a few wires. Everything was surreal, an invasion of our personal space.
A few days earlier, the sheriff’s department told me they had a “bad guy” in custody who confessed to stealing our car. Bad Guys…
I remember hearing Father Greg Boyle speak in Denver. He said, “I’ve worked with gang members for over thirty years, and I haven’t met a bad guy yet. You’d think I would have met one by now.” Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town in Nebraska, said, “There is no such thing as a bad kid, just bad decisions.”
What lens do Boyle and Flanagan see the world through? Do they have the mind of Christ, or do they deny reality?
What does it mean to walk in faith when we have been violated by someone? Can I say the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”? Can I say this prayer with any authenticity if I don’t practice it? After all, there is a “bad guy” out there who has our personal information. What if he’s working with a lot of other bad guys?
The Prodigal Father welcomes his lost son, who made many bad decisions, home. The father forgives him and restores him. Is this just a “nice” story for Sunday mornings or are we supposed to live it? Is restorative justice even possible in our system of law and order?
How many times should I forgive, Jesus? Jesus, what if the person is armed and dangerous?
I started my mom’s car and drove over to Burger Boy for a breakfast burrito. I held my mom’s small glass angel that she had dangling from the steering column. Did he see it? I prayed. “God, thank you that we have our car back.” I threw the A&W Root Beer can, his empty water bottle, and some dirty paper towels into the trash can. I kept the empty package of Marlboros.
From the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And I prayed, “Father forgive me, I do not know what to do.” Or maybe it is very clear.
It is one thing to believe in Jesus. It is quite another thing to try to live like Him. Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God” (Ephesians 4:32-5:1). So be it.
Blessings and peace,