Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Victim, No Crime?

A few weeks ago, my wife picked up our boys from school and returned home to find our house had been burglarized. The place was ransacked. Every room, every drawer, every cabinet, every closet— financial information all over the floor. The intruders had emptied my sons’ backpacks and refilled them with our DVD collection (around 200 disks), gaming systems, other small electronics, and miscellaneous items. They then rode off on my bicycle and my son’s scooter.

The police CSI unit dusted for prints. They took photos, made a list of crime scene evidence, asked us a number of questions, interviewed our neighbors, gave us a case number, and went on their way as yet to be heard from again.

Slightly over a week later, I received a call from my boss asking me if I could come into the office. The police were there. Our offices had been broken into over the weekend, ransacked, and thoroughly cleaned out. Here we go again. Unbelievable! Granted, I live (by choice) in San Bernarghetto… er, I mean San Bernardino, California, but, come on. Really?

Certainly, I am not happy about these events. I am broken hearted about our losses. A deep and almost violent anger toward our unidentified assailants swelled inside me when I saw my ten year old weeping over stolen belongings. I am frustrated and wearied by the arduous task of rebuilding lost data and program templates at work. I feel abused and violated. But I am not writing to lament. In the end, it is just stuff. And, stuff can be replaced.

The lingering disconcertion, however, comes in the awareness that strangers have been in our home— that uninvited delinquents have infiltrated our offices. We know, because there is clear and irrefutable evidence. The police have fingerprints on file. Things are broken and missing and defaced.

But, in the middle of all the mess, a curious thought crossed my mind. What if people have been coming into my home for a long time and I simply haven’t been the wiser? What if I am not the only person who spends a good deal of time sitting behind my desk? I only know people have violated the sanctity of these places because there is evidence of their time there. That fateful Monday morning, my office looked much different than when I left it the Friday before. The physical and emotional atmosphere of my home is strikingly different than it was a few weeks ago.

I recently attended a conference on spiritual development. One of the speakers confessed that, until he was in his mid twenties, traveling overseas, the Church (and consequently, Christianity) had made no measurable/observable impact on his life or community at large. He had never met anyone who professed to be a Christian and actually demonstrated some significant evidence of such a claim (outside of the things they avoided and the language they spoke). Sadly, I wasn’t all that shocked. I continued listening to his story as if there must be more to the point. But, when given pause, there was more weight to this reality than just about any other statement that could have followed.

In his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne writes of an exchange with a leper he met in India. While working in a makeshift health clinic, after dressing the man’s wounds, the patient thanked Shane with the word namaste.

We really don’t have a word like it in English (or even much of a Western conception of it). They explained to me that namaste means “I honor the Holy One who lives in you.” I knew I could see God in their eyes. Was it possible that I was becoming a Christian, that in my eyes they could catch a glimpse of the image of my Lover?[1]
God has ransacked my life. All the stuff I’ve stored away in closets and drawers, He works to systematically expose to His grace. I believe this is evident to anyone who knows me. I wish I could say it is a totally different feeling than when my home and office were burglarized. But, my initial reaction is still that of one violated; an uncomfortable, but, in this case, not unwelcomed reality.

What’s more, I consider the people in my life, the others in my community, and I wonder if there is any evidence in their lives—anything in their world that would serve as indication that God is present in me. Claiborne also writes:

One of the lepers explained to me that oftentimes lepers don’t even know the words thank you because they have never needed to say them. They had rarely experienced occasions when they used language of gratitude.[2]
When God shows up, it is obvious He has been around. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.[3]” So, shouldn’t it be obvious He’s been around when those near me survey their lives? There are far too few moments when someone had to learn a new word because they saw, in my life, a love beyond their experience. I’m anxious to do something about this.


1. Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (The Simple Way, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006).

2. ibid.

3. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.