Burglary in Progress

Still

An epiphany is a burglary in progress. It is the actions of God to steal the very things we’ve been trying to safeguard from the grace of Jesus. Once God commits the crime and takes our goods, our lives are never the same.

I was about to be robbed.

Hector was my enemy. His family played their music until the wee hours of the morning. His sons were known gang members. Beer cans littered the sidewalk near his house like unwanted lottery tickets that failed to fulfill the promise of new fortunes.

Hector was my enemy, and I wanted God to smite him from the neighborhood—though not from the world. That would be too harsh.

If only the family would move to another street, I reasoned, I would be so grateful to God I’d make the vacant home into a park or a Dairy Queen franchise. (I like DQ.)

For five years I wanted God to get rid of Hector’s family. He said no. I begged God to be more specific in his answer because I was not getting it. If I serve you, Jesus, you will reward me with a quiet street. If I preach the Word, you will provide for all of my needs—especially rid me of all my fears and frustrations. If I turn my cheek even when it’s slapped, you will slap a few people around for me. Right?

For five years I waited, like Jonah sitting under his vine waiting for Nineveh to be stricken from the earth. I was set up for a burglary by God.

Hector walked over to my house and asked to talk to me. I felt uneasy, not sure what his agenda was. His face was bright. His words were measured and sincere. He asked if I would help his son by letting him work at our church to complete community service hours for a school infraction. This was the first time Hector had ever done something like this. My face relaxed. Hector extended his hand to me as a gesture of friendship. Did Corrie ten Boom feel this way with the Nazi officer who asked for forgiveness?

“Will you help me?” Hector asked. The burglary was in progress. I could not reject an opportunity from God to give the son—and the father—a chance to begin again. I said yes.

I was set up by God’s appearing in my neighbor. I needed outside help to realize my own sin. I wanted to punish my neighbor, not extend him grace as God has done for me many times over. I didn’t want to give up being judge and jury of others.

But then I found myself saying, “OK, kid, show up on Monday,” and I believe God is making all things new.

About the Author

Reginald Smith is director of race relations and social justice for the Christian Reformed Church. He attends Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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