The week of Christmas, my brother-in-law and his wife, Rachel, were robbed. Jordan and I love them both deeply and consider them some of our best friends, so this was really hard for us to hear. We were able to visit them 2 days later and were very impressed, challenged, and encouraged by their perspective and response to the robbery. So naturally, I asked Rachel if she would be willing to be a guest writer on my blog to share her experience :). Thank you, Rachel, for your willingness to open up to me and my readers. (ps: you can check out their wedding here)
Here is her recounting of the events and what she has learned:
It was only a few short months ago that we stood in front of 150 witnesses and said, “I do”. October 7, 2012 was a special day, but we were more excited about our marriage beginning than we were our actual wedding day. Garrett and I were excited about life together – being able to tell each other “I’ll see you at home” and it meaning OUR home, introducing each other as “husband” and “wife”, and spending holidays as a married couple. With Christmas approaching, this became more and more true. We kept saying to one another, “This is our first Christmas married!”. We were excited to spend our first Christmas together and experience all it had to offer. A few days after Thanksgiving, we bought our first real Christmas tree and began the Christmas preparations. Over the course of a few weeks we had bought and wrapped all of our presents for each other and placed them neatly under the tree. I loved seeing the tree at night – the lights twinkled so beautifully. As Christmas grew near, we also grew in anticipation to spend it together – Mr. and Mrs. Maroon.
The week of December 16th was an ordinary week. We both began our work weeks like we normally did knowing that on Thursday we would celebrate our first Christmas with each other. Jordan, Krystal, and Riley were arriving to our house on Friday morning and we would be spending the following days with each of our families for Christmas. Thursday night was our night to exchange gifts and celebrate with each other before family time started.
But the Lord had a different plan for our week…
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6)
I will never forget the look on his face when he told me it was gone. “Rachel,” Garrett said as I heard him come up the stairs…he never says my full name… “we got robbed!” His face was white and I could see the fear. “They stole our cars.” At this point, I was mid-shower (always in the right place at the right time – good job, Rachel..) and the news was almost unbelievable. “How could something like this happen to us? We bought a house in one of the safest neighborhoods in Newport News!” I got dressed as my body shook with fear and waited for Garrett to go downstairs. He told me not to go down without him. He went first – I followed close behind. It was like a movie. The couch cushions were turned over. Chairs were pushed out of place. Drawers were open. Our TV was missing from the mantle. The wind from the open window was softly blowing the shades. And when we looked under our beautiful Christmas tree – every last present was gone. How did this happen…to us?
Those few moments have been ingrained in my memory. Why would the Lord allow this to happen to us, His children?!..Don’t we quickly doubt God’s goodness when we have little faith in Him? And the Lord knew I would doubt.
But God’s faithfulness has never been clearer to me than on that day.
In case you didn’t catch on, we were asleep upstairs through this whole thing. Whoever came in broke a lock on our window and not a sound was heard. Do I still doubt the Lord’s goodness when I think about how restless Garrett was going to bed that night and how he had to get up to take a melatonin in order to sleep? Do I still question His sovereignty when I remember that neither of us got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night – something not uncommon with us? Why did I just sleep through the whole thing? Because God put us in a deep sleep on purpose. Because God knew that a confrontation could have been dangerous.
Because God wasn’t asleep while this was happening…even though we were.
Through this whole experience, Garrett and I can’t help but believe that we gained much more than we lost that day. We cried as we told the police officer what presents were under the tree that we never got to give to one another. We shook as we thought about the people that were in our house that could have easily attacked us. But we praised the Lord for the community of faith and the body of Christ that we had never seen in such a way before. We lost everything that seemed important to us – both of our vehicles, some electronics, our money…but did they really take anything of value? I remember driving to the bank that day in the backseat of my mother-in-law’s car. Garrett was in the passenger seat and had just taken a phone call. We came to a stop and Garrett’s mom leaned over to him and whispered, “your most valuable possession is in the backseat.” That still brings tears to my eyes, even now. She was right.
In this life, people can take our stuff. They can take the “things” that belong to us -the things that we have worked for and rightly own. We have two responses. We can either become angry with them because they took something that didn’t belong to them. Or, we can show grace upon them. Garrett knows a man who once was robbed by a student at a youth retreat. The young boy took some money from the man. When the two encountered each other, the man asked the student if everything was going ok and if he needed any more money. Garrett has told this story several times, but this is the first time I truly understand it. That man was overflowing with grace. Whoever came into our house could have just been greedy, looking for an adrenaline filled night. But ultimately, their deepest need is not a flat screen TV or some extra cash from a stranger’s wallet. Their deepest need…and MY deepest need..is Christ. The Lord has overwhelmed my heart with grace towards our robbers. The Lord used them to teach me about the true valuables of life to show me that my true joy is not found under a green tree at Christmas time. Once I was faced with the reality that there was nothing under my Christmas tree, I realized that being stripped of all my “stuff” was the greatest gift of all this Christmas.
They found both of our cars and life is getting back to “normal.” But I never want to forget what I have learned in this past week and a half. I never want to doubt the Lord’s goodness in my life. I have been singing Chris Tomlin’s song “Whom Shall I Fear” in my head for the past week. There are moments, especially at night, when I still get scared thinking about what happened. But then I remember that the Lord is my protector, not my new ADT system or the lock on my door. He alone will uphold me with His right hand and I have no one to fear. I believe Him when He says He’ll never forsake me. He was ever present with us that night. I know His hand was on our bedroom door and over our deep sleep. I know he was there.
We haven’t yet figured out how, but Garrett and I want to somehow celebrate God’s faithfulness to us through this event every Christmas from now on. All throughout scripture the people of God build altars to remember God’s goodness to them. We want this to be a season where we remember the one Christmas where all of our gifts were stolen and nothing remained under our tree but some fallen pine needles. We want to remember it as a time when God showed Himself MIGHTY even in our barrenness. As we heard at church last Sunday just after the robbery, “…often the most barren and infertile soil is the ground that yields the most fertility and becomes a garden of grace.” We have so much to be thankful for and we want this to be a place where we return and kneel down before the Lord year after year surrendering our “things” to God – because ultimately, they are His..and we give Him full control.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 should have been a day that shook the newleywed Maroon household to the core – and we had our moments – but in our weakness, God made us strong. I am not a naturally grace giving person, but I can’t help but hope that if I was ever confronted with our robbers, I would be able to look at them in love and tell them that they are forgiven.
“Oh, to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”