How God Used a Thief


Almost a year ago, a man walked up my driveway, peered through the passenger window of my car, punched open the glass, and stole my wife’s backpack. This was back when my wife was a full time registered nurse at the local hospital — and this was the one night that she had forgotten to bring in her backpack.

What was inside the backpack?

Almost every fragment of my wife’s identity lay in that backpack, not to mention all her hard earned money. And we realized all this the moment we woke up to find glass covering the ground next to my car. There was glass in all the seats too. My heart punched my ribs as I raced inside to call 9-1-1.

We had received a text message from our bank inquiring about odd purchases from her debit card. Two trips to the tobacco store and over sixty dollars at Taco Bell. Gross. Who does that? Who steals a credit card filled with cash to go an spend it on an all-you-can-eat Taco Bell run?

“Someone hungry,” said my mother, later that week.

“Hm,” I murmured.

That’s not what I want to hear, I thought. This man could’ve killed us. We were vulnerable, asleep in our house, and this man preyed on that. How could someone do that?

Anger swelled in me like white hot coals. To this day, I cannot remember a time where I felt more anger towards someone. I had made up my mind: if this man came back, then I would be ready for him — ready to hurt him, or worse.

I didn’t sleep that night, but not because I tried to sleep. I had decided to stay awake the entire night on purpose, peeking out from behind each curtain to look outside, a metal bat in my hand.

Sometime later, a friend of mine pulled out a tiny pistol for me to look at. “Now the kind of gun you want to buy is one like this.” I stared at it and felt my hands grow clammy. I felt a lust for it — to hold it and use it against the thief, if he ever came back. My anger had consumed me like no other time in my life.

Ephesians 4:31 — Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (ESV)

Once again, that is not what I want to hear, I thought.

He took the gun away before I could think about it much longer.

***

A sleepless week went by. I kept showing up to work later and later. One morning I hid in the parking lot of the tobacco outlet he spent my wife’s card at, waiting in my little Prius, thinking I could fight him at a moment’s notice. I knew what he looked like because of some security footage that the Dollar General next door shared with me.

Matthew 5:21–22 — “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESV)

I threw my hands up in a rage and drove to work. He never showed up. Later that day, the text from the police came saying something to the lines of, “We arrested him this morning trying to shoplift the local Walmart.” They gave me his name and I immediately began to search for information about him.

Who was this guy? Where did he live? Now was the time to find out.

When I searched his name, things began to make sense. This man was not from Arkansas, where I live, he was from Louisiana. But what was he doing up here? It says that he used to be married, and had a child.

That was when I found the obituary. Twelve years before robbing me, this man had lost his infant daughter. Her name was Kalia.

Kalia passed away on Thursday, in her New Iberia residence.

At that moment, my thoughts about this man had shifted. God, in his supreme sovereignty, allowed this man to rob me, that my heart may be cleansed from the anger I didn’t know I was capable of harboring.

If a man looks at a woman with lust in his eyes, he commits adultery. Following that same logic, what does that mean about the anger I felt towards this fellow man? Sinking back into my chair, I tried to imagine the void this man must have felt inside. To have lost everything back home, and to live life as a criminal now, alone. What a sad life that must be.

I wasn’t wrong in my anger for being robbed, most people would understand being angry about that. But, what I did fail at was thinking that this thief, who is created in the image of God, as I am, was any lesser of a person than me (Genesis 1:27). Through this man, God taught me that my wife and I’s possessions are not our own (John 3:27). He taught me that, though it is easier said than done, I must love my enemy, and pray for him. I am no greater than the thief; I am a sinner just like he is (Matthew 5:43-44, Luke 6:35).

Who was I to think that I should be the hand by which this man is judged? Weren’t the men that were crucified next to Jesus Christ thieves (Matthew 27:38)? And even as Jesus was beaten, his mortal flesh shredded, and nailed to a cross, he extended his grace to the one who believed in him (Luke 23:42-43).

How badly I need Christ’s grace. A sinful, prideful man like me needs that grace today, like the thief on the cross — like the thief from the tobacco store, and Taco Bell.

***

Fast-forward to today and we check back in on him every once in a while, searching his name on Google. To this day, he continues to be arrested over and over again in the surrounding counties for the same crimes.

Reader: if you would, when you finish reading this, would you say a prayer for him? Pray that God would work on his heart, to turn it from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Pray that a prison minister may lead him to Christ, and that his mind would change forever by a work of the Holy Spirit.

This story was not to say that stealing is permissible, or that threatening the safety of your family is either. Rather, I encourage you today to pray for your protection as often as you can — for security that only your Lord can provide. I felt led to share this story that it might convict someone who is facing a similar internal struggle as I did.

Know this: You are no better than those around you. Pray for their salvation vehemently! And if you feel yourself welling up with pride, pray that your Lord would crush it today (Proverbs 16:18).


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