Sometimes I cringe when looking back at some of the stupid things I did in my youth. Although I was raised by strict parents who knew how to keep spanking as an option in their arsenal of punishments, that didn’t stop me from doing things that I knew were wrong.
Such was the case when a friend and I were tempted to help ourselves to church money. Ouch! That hurt just putting it in print. Yup, that’s right, let’s call a spade a spade and say that we didn’t help ourselves, we stole church money.
That was back in 1965 in Bothell, Washington, when people left their cars and houses unlocked, and my church left an unlocked donation box in the lobby of the church. Of course, the church was always unlocked and so the taking was easy. We hatched a plan and when the coast was clear we jammed our greedy little hands into that donation box and proceeded to fill our pockets with money.
We were rich! And boy, oh boy did we have plans for that money. When one only has a $1.50 allowance a week and a small amount of babysitting money that pilfered money seemed like a fortune, and I suppose in those times it was.
Walking home with my friend I realized that while I might have a fortune to spend, I also had a huge amount of fear and guilt that went along with it. All the way home I berated myself for my actions and I was certain that even if I didn’t get caught, God would find a way to right the score. Being Southern Baptist, a religion that exuberantly preaches brimstone and hellfire, I knew my soul was in grave danger. That is if God didn’t strike me dead first. I knew my friend was feeling the same shame and dread as me.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any more and I turned to Jeannie to suggest that we return the money. She readily agreed and sighed a huge breath of relief. After all, if we returned the money we hadn‘t really committed the crime. Right? Well, now I know that’s not true. We certainly did commit a crime, and a very serious one at that.
With trembling knees we went back to that church and with shaking hands we put back every single penny before it was ever found to be missing. We were lucky.
But my actions haunted me for years, and at times, they still do to this day.
Churches are the last bastion of sanctity, peace and comfort. Even then I knew that any house of worship was to be revered. My little lesson in theft and the subsequent guilt reaffirmed that.
And that was why I was shocked to discover that the fire at St. Rita’s Parish and that of a Red Cross van parked outside another church is likely the work of an arsonist.
Being an arsonist bespeaks of some serious issues. If it was arson, it was a targeted and specific arson directed at places of worship. Even more shocking is the fact that it occurred so close to Holy Week. Even now I just shake my head as I think about the obviously troubled person who has no reverence for a place of worship.
I don’t think God will strike you down, because now I know God is a kind and forgiving God. But for your own sake please get help.
You will get caught you know, and it’s only a matter of time before you will have to face the law. This time, do the right thing before someone gets hurt or injured. More importantly, do the right thing for yourself. It’s not too late.