Forgiveness, Even If He’d Likely Do It Again In A Heartbeat

Before anything else, let me say that I still love him, I’m not angry, and I forgive him completely. I wish he could know that; I at least want you to.

Within the last month, I discovered that someone I know well — a member of my extended family — has stolen nearly $3,000 from me by fraudulently charging things to a credit card he took from my wallet while I was otherwise enjoying a late-autumn family reunion in Arkansas. As you can imagine, it feels like a punch in the gut; as you can also understand, I can’t compromise the card-issuing bank’s investigation, and so there’s not much more I can say here about the theft, fraud, and its resolution. The store he charged the things to has cleared the charges from my now-closed account, so I’m not responsible for them, thanks be to God.

And yet what hasn’t, in financial terms, cost me a penny has nonetheless cost me greatly, and it will cost him much, much more. I’ve got to deal with my feelings of grief over his betrayal; I’m even more stricken by the effect all of this will have on his mother and on my relationship to her. It’s not fair, but, in a sense, it’s a whole lot easier for him. The guy who rifled through my belongings, stole my card, and in my name bought five laptops at four different stores — let’s call him Buck — may or may not get caught, either by the police or by the bank that issued the store card, and if he is, he’ll either pay the store back, which likely will satisfy them, or he won’t, which could send him back for a third term in prison. Some form of justice, imperfect as it might be, will resolve this; if the store can get him to pay it back, they say they’ll consider it closed, and the police then will only be involved if I file a separate report. Because that could look vindictive, I’m not inclined to do that.

Still, “conflicted” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I can’t think of more ladylike terms for “gut-wrenching” and “heart-rending,” “mind-numbing” and “fist-clenching.” I didn’t ask for this, it wasn’t what I thought would happen, even though I know Buck is a two-time felon and thief, and a reunion whose entire goal, in my heart, was to gently bring salt and light to family members I hadn’t seen for far too long is now tainted and bitter. Only the Lord Jesus can make it right, and only the Holy Spirit can guide me in how to reach out both to Buck and to his mother.

But this is where being a disciple of Christ shifts from the day-to-day ease of devotion and generally uncomplicated walk to the rocky, blistering, bruising discipleship sometimes required of us who have been called by his name. It’s not a punishment; I’ve not sinned in this, and even if I had, the Cross and the Resurrection have done away with the punishing wrath of my Savior. Christ has saved us from our own sins; this is an example of how he also, graciously, saves us from the toxic effects of the sins of others. Sometimes that redemption isn’t pretty. Most times, it’s just pretty grueling as we wrestle with what to do, how to feel, what’s right, what’s wrong, and how do we best respond as Jesus would — without allowing ourselves to be overcome by the flesh, that way of thinking that wants to kick his ass more than to save his soul. By grace, I’ve so far escaped that, but the swirl of questions within me and the deep desire I have to witness Christ in this is infinitely more difficult than the fact that my stuff was stolen.

This is a test, a pruning, a chastening, and an opportunity, a precious one, a discipline that could only come from having been the one Buck chose to victimize as he sinned against God, and God only. I imagine I’ll always have a zillion questions for Buck, and I pray — beg — for one more opportunity to present him with the Gospel. I’m not angry at him, as much as I wish it hadn’t happened, and as much as I dread the devastation of presumed betrayal that his mother will very likely blame me for by my having reported it to the card issuer. I feel only profound sadness that Buck has run so far from the Savior and is now cavorting so crudely on the rockiest and most treacherous of paths marked by drugs, violence, and larceny. He is far from Christ — but he’s not too far, and as long as he has breath in his body, he can still be reached by the arm of the One who lives, and died, to save.

And in the midst of the storm, in the unending swirl of uncertainty about how best to represent Christ in this and how best to honor my Biblical submission to the authorities, there is, and has been from the start, one thing that’s clear: I love Buck. I’m not angry, I forgive him, and I pray that he’ll turn and follow the Way of righteousness. What he did was horrible — it wasn’t just theft and fraud, but a violation of trust and an undertaking so heartbreakingly common to him that his insouciance, not the theft itself, has lodged in my heart as the focus of my grief. If I thought five stolen laptops, or my paying three grand for things I didn’t buy, would result in his salvation, I’d do it. But it wouldn’t matter. Buck doesn’t realize that there is One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (and all of the laptops in the world) and who paid with his own precious blood to bring him what I never could — forgiveness of his sins, a heart clothed in righteousness.

So all I can do for this one I love is pray, and forgive, and forget any anger that threatens to seep in while remembering only the forgiveness I’ve received. In my entire life, I’ve stolen a Barbie doll dress and a pepper shaker from a pizza parlor; I was six and flush with envy the first time, 19 and flush with stupidity the second. I’m not a thief — but I am a sinner, and I know the rocky, treacherous path Buck is on because I’ve walked it myself. As have all of you — which is why I’m sharing this. I don’t “do forgiveness” perfectly, or even particularly well. But maybe that’s why Buck’s actions, known to the LORD, were allowed to happen to me. Perhaps this will encourage some of you — not to follow my example, which is a perennially second-best course of action, but to join me in following the example of the Ultimate Forgiver. Please pray for Buck — the LORD knows his name and who he is to me — and please pray for me.

Because sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock. Sometimes, it pours out the stuff in your purse, paws through your things, runs off to Office Depot, and goes on a frenzy fettered only by the limits of my credit line and not the limits of conscience. Still, it is an opportunity, a hard road of discipleship that I pray will lead me to cooperate ever more fully as the Spirit does his work to conform me more and more to the image of Christ within me . . . the hope of glory, unfailing and unrestrained.

One Response to “Forgiveness, Even If He’d Likely Do It Again In A Heartbeat”

  1. Ashwin says:

    You are indeed blessed. I am happy for you.

    God bless you and keep you.

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