Mercy for the Guy Who Stole My Car
You may have heard by now that Pope Francis has declared a "Year of Mercy," which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 8 and end on Nov. 20, 2016.
According to the Vatican, this Year of Mercy is a time for sins to be absolved; a special time to actively seek and dispense forgiveness and compassion. A yearlong Festivus Jubilee of sorts -- sans the "airing of grievances," presumably.
Sounds good to me. Who doesn't like mercy?
I'm not a Catholic, but I like this idea, and I like this pope. Francis seems like a genuinely humble, earnest, compassionate man, who shuns luxury and delights in sticking it to the rich and powerful of our world. These are endearing qualities in my book.
I want to get in on this Year of Mercy, but what's an appropriate way for a non-Catholic to participate?
Well, I'm going to forgive the guy who stole my car, drove it several hours away, and left his underpants in the back seat.
This has been a difficult decision. I will not soon forget having to drive nearly four hours -- with our 2-year-old daughter screaming much of the way -- to reclaim my beloved hatchback, which was dented, muddied, sullied...defiled. (There were actually two pairs of underpants in the backseat. What was he doing in there?)
The drive home was even worse, as the culprit had apparently chain smoked and used my car as a trashcan during the entirety of his two-week joyride before being busted. He was also kind enough to leave some drug and burglary paraphernalia -- including the classic ski mask and crowbar.
Needless to say it was a very moist, disgusting, nervy four-hour ride home. I was furious after this whole episode. I wanted retribution. I wanted the opposite of mercy.
Though since hearing about this Year of Mercy, I have started feeling increasingly worse about relishing in cashing the court-ordered restitution checks.
My initial thought was to reach out to the guy's lawyer to see if he was making any sort of effort to turn his life around. I looked up his record and it was pretty clear this was not the case. I thought about scrapping this whole idea after I saw more charges listed by his name, but then I thought of myself, and how much I've been forgiven.
My understanding of the Christian worldview is that we are broken, sinful, and incapable of saving ourselves. And yet we are redeemed, the slate is wiped clean -- regardless of us "getting it together" or "turning it around" -- if we humbly seek the grace of God. The "restitution payments" we incur for our ongoing existential felonious escapades have been cancelled even though we don't deserve it.
So just this week I emailed the guy's lawyer and also the judge who presided over the case to see about cancelling the balance of the restitution.
We'll see how it goes; I don't how the logistics of this is supposed to work. Either way, I'm going to start my Year of Mercy with this. Hopefully I'll manage to do other merciful things as well, and this momentum will carry over into how I treat my family, co-workers, neighbors, friends, strangers, Comcast, internet provocateurs, animals I don't like (iguanas, Muscovy ducks), and my admittedly dreadful fellow South Florida commuters.
I encourage you, too, to get in on this Year of Mercy, regardless of what worldview you embrace or where you are on your faith journey. Is there something you feel compelled to forgive or be merciful about?
The world has more than enough vengeance, vitriol, violence and misery. Let's try something different this year.