It went like this: on Friday I came home from work early, as usual (yet another of the many perks at my job). I dropped off some books at the library bookmobile, I took a menu from a new restaurant in the neighborhood and I made it back to the apartment by about 3:40. I unlocked the door, kicked off my shoes and slid into my slippers. But before taking my coat off, my senses suddenly went on alert–something wasn’t quite right. Taking a few more steps into the entrance hallway, I noticed there was a light on in the bedroom. “That’s weird,” I thought, “we never forget to turn out the lights!”
I thought my husband might be home, so I called “Hello?” Nobody answered–and his shoes weren’t in the hall, so it was unlikely that he was back.
I took a couple more steps into the apartment, gaining a view into the bedroom. I stopped short: our old laptop was out on the bed, its case tossed aside; my jewelry drawer was on its side, with necklaces, bracelets and earrings dumped out all over the bed; my underwear drawer and my husband’s tie drawer were both open, ties spilling out. The throw rug was twisted on the floor, as if someone had left in a hurry.
It took me a moment to register what I was seeing–in a cartoon, a cloud of question marks would have been floating above my head for a split second.
But then, it hit me fast and it hit me in the gut: someone had broken in. Another rush of adrenaline told me that maybe I wasn’t alone.
Heart pounding, I ran back towards the front door, almost heading out in my slippers. At the last moment I slipped my shoes back on and exited as fast as I could, pounding down the stairs and out into the courtyard.
As the cold air outside hit me again, I felt the blood rushing up and down my body. What had happened? Could there be another explanation other than a break in? I was suddenly doubting my own eyes. Had my husband come home, looked for something in a hurry, and left again? This seemed implausible, but my brain clung to this possibility. And if it was thieves, how had they gotten in, since the front door was intact? What state was the rest of the apartment in?
I called 9-1-1. The operator picked up, and my voice was shaking as I tried to control myself, giving her my name and address. So far so good. But when she asked “Ma’am, what made you think that someone had broken in?” and I started stammering my response, I realized that there was no other explanation. Burglars had been in our home–there was no way around it. The tears started to leak out of my eyes. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
The most agonizing moments of the whole experience were the 45 minutes I spent alone, pacing up and down in front of our apartment building, waiting for the cops to arrive. I had left the apartment so quickly, afraid that the criminals were still in the apartment, so I had no idea what had been taken. Had they taken my grandma’s necklaces that I loved, thinking they might be valuable? My camera? Our external harddrive with all my photography work? My KitchenAid? Our Netflix DVD? How would I explain to Netflix why I couldn’t return “Temple Grandin”? What about our copy of “The Royal Tenenbaums”–or worse, our musical instruments? The painting I had just hung up from my grandparents? Wild scenarios ran through my mind, and my forehead pleated into creases with each new vision of loss that presented itself. Every few minutes tears would come to my eyes. Why weren’t the cops there yet? And all throughout, I prayed and repeated to myself “It’s just stuff . . . it’s just stuff . . . no one is hurt . . . it’s just stuff.” I paced, I prayed, I stepped into the street squinting to see if I could identify the police car coming towards me from the empty distance. I paced some more, prayed some more, finally falling into a state of numbness.
Finally, two policemen came. And things got better. I had concocted such scenarios in my mind during the wait that seeing the actual state of things inside the apartment was a relief. A huge relief. “This isn’t so bad,” I breathed, feeling like a gift had just been handed to me. Almost immediately, I started cataloguing all the things I was thankful for:
-They didn’t take a lot–two rings (my engagement ring being one of them), a pile of cash from my bedside table (my payment from singing in Kevin and Katina’s wedding–ouch); an ipod. An ipod charger. My childhood piggy bank full of pennies (surprise for them!). They could have taken so much more, but didn’t. For example, they opened up our old laptop before deeming it wasn’t worth taking (yes, it’s a dinosaur in computer years). And I’m so glad they didn’t wrestle our KitchenAid away! Or our desktop PC! I could go on and on, but it really could have been much worse.
-We have insurance! Granted there’s a $200 cash limit, a $1000 jewelry limit, and a $500 deductible, but hopefully State Farm will be fair and generous with us and we’ll get a check to cover a solid portion of it.
-No one was in the apartment when they broke in–nobody’s safety was compromised. With our holiday guests over the past month–Steve and Steph, Tyler and Liz, Heidi, Mike and James–there could have been someone present, and they could have been in danger. Praise God that our guests didn’t have to suffer through anything traumatic!
-It didn’t happen while we were on vacation, when it might have taken days for us to find out–days during which the apartment would have been totally unsecured.
-The thieves didn’t ransack the place–they dumped some stuff out, but there was no unnecessary damage done to our apartment or possessions.
-Our papers, checkbook and identity info was unaccessed and untouched.
-We live in a country that sends cops to help you in a time of need. I’m so thankful for 9-1-1! That our police force doesn’t demand bribes before they help you! The officers were so kind and so calm, and I thank God for them.
-We’ve had the opportunity to get to know one of our neighbors (who was also burglarized that day), which may not have happened without this small disaster to throw us together. We’ve invited him over for dinner.
The cops left around 5:30pm, promising that someone would return later on to take fingerprints. Again, I was left alone. The fear that was foremost in my mind was now my poor husband: with his cellphone off and in transit on the train, he had no idea what had happened and wouldn’t find out until he walked in the door. I hated the idea of breaking the bad news to him, especially since he’d been looking forward to a peaceful evening at home playing bananagrams and maybe watching a movie. The thought of bursting his bubble just broke my heart. And how would he take the news? I had no idea. Would he be furious? Beating himself up for failing to keep us safe even though there was nothing he could have done to prevent this? So until my husband came home, once again I just paced and prayed. “Give him strength, give him grace,” I prayed over and over. “Spirit, come and fill this apartment with your presence. We always need you, and we need you now. Calm my husband’s heart; give him supernatural peace.”
And God said “yes.”
Some people say that after a robbery they feel estranged in their own house, like their home has been violated. We did not experience that, by God’s grace. After the cops had finished and we’d called our insurance company and put our things back in order, things normalized quickly. We drank a little wine and played a few rounds of bananagrams. I watched a movie while my husband played his electric guitar. We felt strangely calm. As various friends called us to check in–Eve, Alex, Vessie–we wondered at the fact that we felt fine. This couldn’t be normal or natural–but there it was. Our hearts were filled with a sense of well-being and peace.
When it came time to go to bed, we prayed again against anxiety. “Lord,” we prayed, “you’ve already done a miracle in our hearts by making us peaceful and thankful at a time when we normally would be anything but that. Complete your good work in us today by granting us a good sleep, as a testimony to your power. We don’t want to give way to our own anxiety–we’re in your hands, and there is no safer place.” And guess what: we slept like babes. I didn’t even wake up to pee like I normally do.
Praise God–he is good!
If that isn’t a testimony to the fact that he is real, working in our lives, and powerful to work in any situation, I don’t know what is.
This experience has been such a reminder to my husband and me that our treasure is in heaven. The most valuable things that we have cannot be stolen. They could take our ring, but not our marriage. They could take my gig money, but not my music or the friends I made it with. And even if–worst case!–one of us was killed, that would just be a temporary goodbye until our eternal hello in heaven.
Invest in good deeds, in other people, in giving, in generosity, in the fruits of the Spirit–none of those things can be taken, my friends! Those things are secure–they are our treasure in heaven which the thief can’t steal and rust can’t corrode.
The burglary has been a blessing to us. We’ve been praying for the criminals, we’ve been praying that our sense of safety won’t be in locks or doors or insurance, but in God’s sovereignty. The other morning I read an amazing Psalm that speaks exactly to all this:
“Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” (Psalm 112:5-9)
God delights in giving us a peace that is not natural to our human hearts, that is in fact supernatural. Unexplainable. The truth that he is strong when we are weak isn’t just a children’s song or memory verse–it’s a reality in my life, and it’s been a reality in this situation.
And as for the power of God, which through prayer has truly been with us during this experience, I can only say that I hope all of you have and will experience its wonders. Another line from a Psalm that’s been close to my heart is 109:4. King David is talking about wicked men being after him, lying about him, attacking him, betraying his friendship. He seems to have every cause for anger and despair, but in that wonderful verse, after enumerating all his troubles, he says: “but I am a man of prayer.”
I love that. I could write my own little Psalm: I was the victim of criminals and have every reason to be distressed–but I am a woman of prayer. Our safety in this world is never guaranteed, because locks are always penetrable and doors can always be broken down–but I am a woman of prayer. The money I earn may disappear in an instant–but I am a woman of prayer.
I think I’ll make that my mantra this year.