I've never had my house robbed.
But it happened last week.
My wife and daughters got home, after running some errands, and saw the back door wide open and some strange tracks in the snow.
My wife made a wise choice to not even enter the house. She got back into the car and called the police. Five patrol cars arrived and the officers searched the house with weapons drawn. They found that every floor of the house had been searched. Not a room was left without the drawers and closets emptied.
When I found out (at work), my first reaction was, "Whoa. I can't believe this is happening."
My second reaction was to try to be as calm as I could while helping my wife make some initial decisions. (i.e. How to tell our 2 and 4 year old daughters what was happening? Should I leave work? Should we drop our daughters off with someone else so they don't see a trashed house? Etc.)
My third reaction was, "God, this is a challenging situation. It's a crisis. And even though my tendency is to feel overwhelmed, stressed, etc...I'm choosing to believe that you don't tend to feel overwhelmed like I do. It's actually impossible for you to feel overwhelmed. You are completely aware of the vastness of your power in relation to adversity. If all the adversity and crises of human history were piled up on a scale, the weight of your power would remarkably overwhelm it all. I'm also choosing to believe what you say in Jeremiah:
"I will make an everlasting covenant with you: to never stop doing good to you."
...or what you say in Psalm 23:
"Surely goodness...will follow you all the days of your life."
That means that you're doing your 'goodness-thing' RIGHT NOW. It seems uncommon for people to make this kind of conclusion. All of my colleagues and most of my friends have a first reaction to this situation that goes something like, "Oh that's terrible!" "Oh how scary!" "You must feel so violated!" And God...my first reaction is to agree with them. I do have thoughts like those!
"Who was it? How long have they been watching us? Is it someone we know? Will they come back again? What if we get hurt? What if they break in when we're at home? What if something bad happens to my wife and daughters? Etc. Etc. Etc."
But before I follow through with my gut reaction, let me ask you God, "How are you reacting to this robbery? You see that this is happening to us right now. What are you feeling about it? Do you think it's terrible? Or do you think that there's something good happening? Or both? What do you want me to feel? How do you want me to react?"
After I thought thoughts like those, I realized that:
It's important for me to set the emotional tone for how my family reacts to this robbery. I want to talk to my wife and daughters in a way that will lead them into an emotional reaction that is real, honest, genuine, raw AND one that includes God in the equation.
God really helped me do that. Here's the ways he gave me grace to set a God-Included emotional reaction to the robbery:
1- I purposed to be friendly and positive with the police (after I arrived on the scene). I walked into the house with a smile on my face and thanked them for their quick arrival and for the way they were serving our family.
2- When I saw my daughters, I purposed to make it very obvious to them that they had my attention. I got down at their eye level. I let them ask me questions about who thieves are, what they do and why they do it. I let heard their worries about their house and their things. I helped them work on their pronunciation of the word 'thief.' (Hahaha! They couldn't even say thief! It was sooo cute!) They had questions about what was happening and they had emotional responses. I resisted the tendency in me to get busy with details regarding how to react to the robbery and how to clean up.
3- After the police left, and my wife and I were alone in our trashed house, I made it a point to sit down on the couch with her. I wanted to set a tone of emotional openness. I started the talk. I told her how I was feeling. I told her my worries. I told her what I heard God speaking to me. Then I knew it was important to hear how she was feeling. So I asked her questions. What were her first reactions? What were her fears? Concerns? What was God speaking to her?
4- I made it a point to help us decide what our clean up plan was going to be. When would we let the girls come into the house for the first time? How would we talk to them about what had happened? How much should we clean up before they came? How should we tackle the clean up process?
5- When we started cleaning up, I had my wife put some worship music on. (Check out our playlists on Spotify.) It was my way of saying, "God we are believing that you are good, that you are doing good, that you will always be good. We are glad to be your children. We know that our security and safety comes from you!"
6- Finally...I wanted to be intentional with the way that I talked to my friends, neighbors and colleagues about our situation. Here's an email that I wrote to my co-workers about everything. I wanted them to see how God isn't just for Sunday morning services. God is relevant to being robbed.
I just wanted to give an update on how my family is doing after the break-in on Tuesday.
First of all...thank you for all that you did to support me that day so that I could leave school and get home to help manage that situation. Thank you Lisa for your thoughtful and quick response to get my classes covered. Thank you Chris for altering your teaching to accommodate the extra load of my students. It definitely was the right choice to leave school and help out at home...and I appreciate you all making that possible.
My family has a lot to be thankful for. We are thankful that Sarah and the girls were out of the house during the break-in. Also, there were a lot of things that we use everyday and that are valuable to us that weren't taken. (i.e. our computer, guitars, electronics (except for Sarah's Kindle) etc.) It seemed like the theif was interested in taking valuable things that he could conceal easily. Apparently he was on a bike and wouldn't have been able to carry large items.
He took some cash that sarah hadn't deposited yet from her yard sale this summer. He took her Kindle. ...and a coin jar that we keep for Ava and Bethany's college savings.
He broke down the back door. So I spent the day yesterday repairing the damage to the door jam and to the interior wall.
We are thankful that Sarah was able to think clearly and make decisions even though it was a stressful situation. When she saw the back door open she didn't even go in. She went back into the car with our daughters and locked the door. She called me and I told her to call the police.
We are thankful that the police came so quickly. about 6 cars arrived in less than minutes...and searched the house to make sure it was safe.
We are thankful that our daughters have been able to process the situation in a healthy way so far. Sometimes it's hard (as you know) for a parent to know how to explain tough topics to young children. But I was able to take a lot of time to look into their eyes...to let them ask questions. To answer all their questions in ways that they could understand. To be a father that they can look to and feel safe with.
We are thankful for how God is helping us respond emotionally. It's easy for us to make wrong conclusions about what safety is and where safety can be found. It's easy for us to make wrong conclusions about possessions. But God is helping us through these emotional challenges.
As you can imagine we've had lots of thoughts pass through our heads like, "are we safe?" "will someone break in again/tonight?" "are my girls going to be safe when I'm gone?" "I feel nervous/violated about someone looking through all of our things."
But Sarah and I and the girls are talking it all out. We are reminding each other that we can never guarentee our future safety by the size of locks/alarm systems...nor by the location in which we live. We are reminding each other that our possessions aren't really ours in the first place. We're reminding each other that we don't have to worry about what we have or don't have because we have God who just gives and gives and gives and gives and keeps giving. We are reminding each other that we belong to God. We our his. We belong to the creator of the universe. He actually thinks about my little family and cares for us. That's amazing to me. We can't guarentee our safety by our neighborhood location, lock size, alarm system...but we can be guarenteed safety because we our loved dearly by a God who is involved, caring and nothing overwhelms him.
These thoughts have helped us struggle through the stressful/worisome thoughts and come to places of peace and reasurance in the middle of a challenging situation.
To be honest though...I actually feel more worry today and yesterday than the actual day that it happened. It's not easy. But I've had enough challenging experiences in my past where God has provided real, practical, relevant help ...that I'm convinced he will help me through today's challenges.
Thank you so much for all of your expressions of care and concern. I'm thankful to have friends/collegues like you.
For any men who are reading this...here's my encouragement to you:
- When you experience adversity...ask God what His feelings are about the challenges you are facing. Lead your family in an emotional response to crisis that is real (messy even) AND yet includes a true picture of what God is like.
- When your family goes through something hard...think beyond the obvious details. Yes the door needs to be fixed. Yes things need to be cleaned up. Yes you need to evaluate your home security needs. But more importantly...you need to emotionally and spiritually care for the people that God has placed under your care. Make sure you leave lots of time to share with your wife how you are feeling. Ask her to share how she's feeling. Don't try to change how she's feeling. Just listen to her and ask her follow up questions. When she's all done talking, tell her that you love her and that you are glad she is with you as you take steps through this challenge.
"God I pray that you would bless our families, friends, neighbors and even the thieves who break into our houses. Help the world to be a more cared for place because you give us grace to be strong men."