In this last year, it feels as if hacking, fraud and identity theft have become common-place in our society. Cyber-tech crimes occur in an unseen virtual world where I’m barely literate. Unfortunately, the ever-real delinquency of shoplifting, car-jacking and home invasion are still present in our city, despite ongoing vigilance.
However, today, I find myself as a perpetrator, not a victim. A thief of the intangible.
I stole something. I stole something valuable. I stole something that can never be replaced. There is no restitution. No giving back. No compensation.
When I read the Old Testament, especially the parts about Moses, there is something that re-calibrates me. Reviewing the basic, God-given rules of life reminds me of how simple right and wrong can be. Moses’s role in the pillars of my foundational beliefs and actions touches my heart each time I review his life. The narration of the Ten Commandments stirs my imagination and visual creativity. Just think, God’s own hand writing on tablets, not just once but twice. It was that important.
“You shall not steal” is one of the shorter of the Ten Commandments, yet this phrase carries a depth I have just now begun to understand. Stealing comes in many shapes, happens in different genres and carries a variety of consequences.
When I was in grade school, I shoplifted a pack of gum. I had no particular motivation. “Just because,” was my answer in response to my parents’ inquiry. Mortified at my discipline, not only did I have to return the gum and pay for it, but I also had to admit my fault and apologize. Restitution and valuable-character shaping happened in the same breath.
Sitting in the sunshine on my friend’s porch, I felt the Spirit break my heart as I shared a recent family challenge with her. To me, it was urgent; not critical. Happening over a couple of days, the incident seemed important, but not vital. Or so I thought. Sifting through the details and uncovering my response to the challenge, I watched her face change. And she challenged me, “Why didn’t you call me? I would have like to have been a part. I could have helped.” The truth is, she could have, in so many ways.
In a moment that should have been grace-filled, I responded out of guilt and yes, shame. I countered with a sarcastic comment to deflect further discussion. And I saw in her face of love for me, pain and disappointment. Then she turned away.
With my inaction and independence, I stole an opportunity for blessing. A chance to share in a healing. I stole a moment to rejoice together in seeing answered prayer. I stole strength. I stole vulnerability.
In my pride, I did not want to impose. I didn’t want to be a burden. I just knew I was strong enough to do it alone. But in reality, I wasn’t.
Exodus goes on to detail restitution for the crime of stealing. And I do mean detail. Verse-after-verse for what to do in response to so many different offenses. All tangible. All with compensation.
How do I compensate for the intangible loss I created?
As I rehearse my lack of interdependence, I yearn for a rewind button. Next time, I’ll know better. Next time, I’ll call. Yet, there really won’t be a next time. For though the situation may be similar, the details and responses will differ. The situation cannot be recreated. It cannot be replicated. It simply and already was.
And yet, today, I’m overwhelmed by grace. This is the intangible compensation not from me, but from a loving God, for my heart, for our friendship, for my sin of pride and independence. For where sin abounds, so grace abounds. My part is to admit and apologize both to her and to my Father. Restitution and soul-changes happen in the same breath; in the same prayer.
I need to be reminded of the power and importance of the Ten Commandments, often. More importantly, I need to be reminded that I am not enough. I need my friend’s strength, prayer and presence.
And I need the grace that comes with the forgiveness of Christ, for He truly is the ultimate restitution.
Where have you been independent?
How did you bridge any intangible losses?