How getting robbed made me richer
We'd just returned from our beloved roommate's beautiful wedding, ascending the stairs weary from a long drive back, but with happy hearts and sore dancing feet, rushing to get ready for Sunday Mass.
As I hurriedly passed through our normally orderly kitchen, I knew I hadn't left those kitchen cabinets open, or those two tea towels on the counter. But it wasn't until I walked into my bedroom and saw the mess—the overturned baskets, the scattered piles of papers, all the drawers ajar, my closet doors wide open—that I realized: we'd been robbed.
Lauren, can you come here? She, too, froze in her tracks when she saw the mess. We swiftly descended the stairs again and I dialed 911 and we stood bewildered on our stoop, waiting for the cops to arrive.
Hours later, after walking the cops through our home and checking for fingerprints and assessing what we’d lost and calling our parents and banks and picking at some soggy leftover nachos, Lauren and I laid side by side in my bed in the dark, stunned and shaken up. I imagined the stranger hastily traipsing through my room, rifling through drawers and baskets, my heart sinking with a horrid feeling of violation. But we made it through the night, and each one’s been easier since.
It’s been three weeks now, and thanks to time, prayer, and immense grace, I feel nearly transformed. Freer than before the break-in, even. It’s a wonder and a marvel and an unexpected delight. Here’s how God’s been working.
There’s nothing like getting robbed to uncover your attitude toward material possessions. And while losing a couple of laptops and a bag and some jewelry was certainly an inconvenience, in the end, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’d feel differently if our thief had taken something truly irreplaceable, but truthfully, I feel as if he’s done me a favor. For the loss has stirred up in me a profound reminder of what I truly value.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” Jesus says, “where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Well, Jesus was right. Thieves do break in and steal here. How grateful I’ve been for the lesson in storing up heavenly treasure, lifting my heart from this fallen world to the home where I truly belong.
What follows naturally from a detached disposition is a desire to be generous. And the break-in has made it clear: this is an area I’ve been lacking in. If I can arrive at a place of relative indifference to a thief taking from me, can I not be warmly, spontaneously generous to those around me? I fear I’ve long excused myself from giving to the poor as I ought, hiding behind the guise of prudence, financial security, and the like. But there are people right in my midst, my brothers and sisters, who go without, and woe to me if I do nothing to ease their burdens.
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine,” says Jesus, “you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) These words have been pressing upon me since that fateful event, and I’ve been both eagerly and reluctantly looking for ways to live them out. There’s a young homeless man I often see in my neighborhood, who can’t be more than 25. Many times I’ve passed the coffee shop by my house and seen him sitting there, motionless, staring into space. And when, a few days ago, I happened upon him at the grocery store, standing forlornly at a display case, I couldn’t help but see it as a sign from God. I asked him if I could buy him anything. Medium Americano, room for milk. I paid the meager $3 and wished him well, and as I walked away, I thought, I just bought coffee for Jesus.
I must say: I am utterly relieved that we were away when the break-in occurred. I shudder to think what might have happened if we were there. I’ve never encountered a crowbar-wielding stranger in my home, and I hope I never will. But all this has provided a remarkable invitation to confront the reality of my mortality. Do I look upon death fearfully, or with joy, knowing that eternal life will follow? Do I recoil from the thought that someone could do me bodily harm, or do I care more for the spiritual wellbeing of my immortal soul? These are questions I’ve been grateful to face head-on.
The Catechism holds that “the virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear; even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” I’ve been praying for God to foster this gift of fortitude in me. While I don’t expect that my life will end in martyrdom, I dearly desire to be free from the fear of death, continually offering my life as a gift to the one who truly authors it.
So, to my thief out there, whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for becoming an unsuspecting conduit of God’s grace, for helping to open my heart to these invaluable truths, for pointing me to heaven. I truly hope I’ll meet you there.