I’ve always wondered what it would be like to experience a thief in the night. Unfortunately, that mystery is no longer a mystery. Last weekend, two thugs decided to don black beanies and scout out Orchard House. Well, they did more than scout. And thankfully, they were loud and dumb about it, like most burglars.
It was 2:30 in the morning when Mom woke to people talking outside the front door. She remained in bed for a few minutes, trying to convince herself she was just paranoid. She waited for what probably felt like a handful of eternities. Prayed. Heard voices again. Mustered a smidgen of courage to peer out the window. And that’s when she saw them: two men, one running his flashlight all around the door frame of our front door.
I was actually awake during the whole ordeal, thanks to a neurological disorder that causes humans to nocturnally flop around like a suffocating fish. But I didn’t hear anything until Mom knocked on the bedroom door, mumbling something in a loud whisper about two guys and a flashlight. The fact that I was awake somewhat disqualifies me to determine what it’s like to experience someone coming “like a thief in the night”(I Thess. 5:2). I think one has to be asleep to experience the full effect. But Shaun, being sound asleep at the time of the ruckus, experienced the full gamut of emotions that come with an attempted break in. Me? I’m just the gal who watched him react to thugs encroaching upon his territory (not to mention loved ones) that he feels personally responsible to protect.
Suffice it to say, the element of surprise is not fun or funny. Or easy. It’s difficult to go from REM sleep to confronting possible burglars, murderers, or drunks – whatever they were. Maybe they were a couple of high school kids, high or hungry. Or high and hungry, since marijuana is legal and easy to come by in my state, and those darn munchies can make you do crazy things. Who knows! The point is …. who knows? You get a couple of guys scoping out how your front door is put together in the wee morning hours, and you really have no idea what you’re up against. They could want anything you possess, including your wife or your life, and all a guy can do is try and act conscious and get his pants on without catching some skin. All whilst gearing up for a possible fight.
I mean, there’s no more “like a thief in the night.” The thief is on the doorstep.
Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha’ gonna do? Whathca’ gonna do when they come for you? is the song I started singing in my head, and then I mentally slapped myself and said Self? Shut. up! Shut up and do something!
I did, of course. I made myself presentable and geared up, too. I threw my phone in the pocket of my robe, in case I needed to call 911. Really didn’t want to call, since I’ve called the police three times since moving into Orchard House a year and a half ago. The incidents were legit, and they weren’t all due to my own mishaps or misfortunes. But nobody wants to live at the address that causes police officers to sigh deeply, roll the eyes, and say, “Darn all the peeps in that little yellow house. Now what?”
By the time Mom woke us up and made it back to her room, the thugs were either on their way home, or on to the next, perhaps more easily broken into, home. Shaun and I missed their presence by ten or so seconds. What scared them off? Did they hear Mom banging on our door? Did they chicken out? What were they here for? Or worse, who were they here for? And the worst question of all … will they be back?
Thieves have a variety of reasons they resort to thievery. Most incidences, I believe, are due to a drug problem. They don’t have any and every house has a TV worth enough to get some. But that isn’t always the case. Thieves also break in for a stash of cash, appliances, forced sex, and murder. And it’s not knowing their motive or whether they will return that has the potential to steal your confidence in being alone in your own home. Sometimes they steal your stuff or hurt your loved ones, but they also steal your peace — even if the break in is unsuccessful.
The Apostle Paul’s reference to Jesus and thievery in the same sentence is rather peculiar, as it’s hard to imagine Jesus coming like a thief at all. I mean, what’s He going to do? Steal my computer? (I wouldn’t blame Him, as I am on it too much.) Ransack my basement in search of some idol I never learned to get control of? (Not the iPhone, Lord!) Why would Jesus come “like a thief in the night”?
Actually, the day of His return is what Paul says will come like a thief in the night. But still. When He comes, we won’t be looking at the day. We’ll be looking at Him. The point Paul is making, I think, is not that Jesus can be rightly compared to a thief, but that our reactions to Jesus’ second arrival can be rightly compared to a typical reaction to a thief in the night:
Panic and confusion due to unpreparedness.
All illustrations break down at some point, so I’m not saying that Shaun or I were unprepared for the thieves the other night. We’ve done everything we can to ensure our own protection. I’m merely pointing out that no matter how prepared you are for thieves, if you are asleep when they start scouring the inner workings of your front door, you are automatically in a painfully obvious predicament. The thieves are more prepared than you. More dressed than you. More awake than you. Not as hungry as you. And probably more brave than you!
Braver, I guess, since they’re the ones willingly risking their lives.
Paul’s point in Thessalonians, at least in part, is to never go to sleep. To stay awake and keep watch, for the day of the Lord is coming. In verse 8, he says to not only be awake, but to be sober, armed at all times with the breastplate of faith and love, and a helmet for the hope of salvation. Guard your hearts and minds, Paul says in a round about way. Keep your heart with all diligence (Prov. 4:23). Root out the idols. Kill the sin. Feed the faith. And protect yourself with the Word.
No. But we are commanded to do it, which means it’s possible, as the Lord doesn’t ask of us the impossible. He simply says “Do it”, and adds that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). And with Him, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26).
Since the attempted break in, I have pondered what practical measures we could take to be better prepared. There are a few options. Maybe learn karate or purchase a fence that zaps the living daylights out of anyone who dares cross it after hours. (That’s a joke, kinda.) But I’m not going to let the whole ordeal steal my peace. I’m going to do what I can to be prepared, and trust the Lord for the results.
And ya’ know? Whether eternity comes because a human thief comes in the night to steal my life, or because the day of Jesus has come like a thief in the night doesn’t especially matter. Man can kill my body, but my soul is God’s. Nothing can pluck me from his hands. Not even two weenies wearing beanies. I’d prefer I get to Heaven via Jesus’ coming, not at the hands of two weenies wearing beanies. But I can’t get my mind all tangled up in that.
Gear up. Stay awake. Be prepared. Trust God with the results.
That’s the plan, man.