It’s been less than a week since I encountered an intruder on our property. I caught the young man breaking the window of our team vehicle that was parked in our driveway.
Instinctively, he ducked down behind the car when I walked around the corner. He didn’t want me to see him.
I had Micah press the panic button to alert our security company that we needed assistance. Suddenly, the alarm blared from the house. As the siren sounded, the young man took flight and leaped over our gate to escape apprehension.
I’ve thought about this young man a lot in the past five days. Honestly, if I was given another face to face opportunity, I would not recognize him. He had succeeded in keeping his face hidden from me earlier in the week. I hadn’t really gotten a full look of him. Yet, there was no doubt in my mind that this perpetrater was young and agile – maybe even high school age. And here he was – choosing to devote his time, his talents, and his life to petty crime.
Who grows up with aspirations to become a thief?
Who wants to be caught breaking the car window of a stranger?
Who desires to be identified as a vandal?
Who chooses wrongdoing as part of one’s destiny?
I doubt that any of these things were what this young man dreamed about as a child.
As I have considered this young man, I have prayed for him often this week.
I am still reading Romans 12 once a day this year. This week, I my eyes rested upon these words:
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. New International Version, Romans 12: 19-21
The vision of heaping burning coals on the young man’s head is not very appealing to me. My desire is for the young man to cease his thievery altogether and choose a redemptive life course. When Paul writes about heaping coals on someone’s head, he is referring to the ancient Egyptian custom of carrying a pan of burning coal or charcoal on one’s head as an act of repentance. Repentance is not an act in isolation. True repentance occurs in a trusted community – not proclaimed in a huge, exposed, public setting – but rather, where grace, love, and accountability may be found. It is my prayer that this young man will find such a safe haven.
I don’t know if he has any such desires, of course. I do not know his thoughts, nor can I see into his heart. He is not accountable to me.
However, it is I who am accountable to God. I am His saint. I desire to attend and preserve the holy life that I have been given in Christ. In this way, I lean into the destiny I have in Christ. A saint’s heart is aligned to the joyful truths and amazing grace that God’s heart is aligned to – in this case – choosing to overcome the evil intent of a trespassing vandal and thief with forgiveness. I may never see this young person again – and then again, I may. We have had ten burglary events on our property in the past year. (Alas, missionary life in Johannesburg makes us just as vulnerable to crime as our South African neighbors where crime statistics are beyond reason.) This young man may have participated in none, some, or even all of these events. Yet, that doesn’t mean I cannot pray for him. This doesn’t mean that he is denied my forgiveness.
This young man needs direction and purpose in order to discover the path that his God desires him to travel in life. Without God-given guidance and direction, he will continue to fall victim to his circumstances – like jumping a gate after being caught in the act of a petty crime.
My God loves this young man and desires him to lean into the good and redeeming God-given destiny that is his. May he discover and trust in the faithful love and blessed hope of Jesus Christ.
Yes, I know. I am praying for a thief. However, in my mind, I am praying for a young man’s soul to cry out to God for help, to receive His mercy, and to rest in His peace.
May it be so….
Image retrieved from Romans 12: 21 Google Image Collection