The anecdote says that when Spurgeon was robbed while away from home that he came home and expressed thankfulness that a) his life was spared, b) the robber didn’t get much and c) “I’m thankful to God that I was not the robber.”
Last Wednesday, the second day of this year, I was working at my desk at school when Christie called me on my cell. She said a jumble of things [in my mind] but also something close to, “some men just came into our house…they put a gun to Karsten’s head….and put him in the closet.” She was also able to confirm that at least one item was missing and they had attempted to take the TV. I was her first call, so I ran to the car, raced home and talked to 911 the whole way there. I beat the police, and as I entered home, Karsten obviously had a jumbled dread of emotions on his face.
Karsten is our oldest. He is 10, and he was enjoying his last morning of Christmas break by playing with Legos on the living room floor when a knock came to the door. Christie was heading up the stairs to tend to the running water (a tub being filled for Bear’s bath), and she told him he could answer it. We live in a busy house with many guests and neighbors at our door throughout the week; sometimes even when I come home, I knock and wait at the front door. When the door was opened, a man with a gun presented himself and asked Karsten who was home. There were two masked and gloved men with him. Karsten told him that his mom was upstairs. He covered Karsten’s mouth, put the gun to his temple and marched him about 12-15 paces to a closet and deposited him inside. For 3-5 minutes, the three men (ages 17-20) went through the downstairs of our home trying to disconnect the TV, taking our iPod, and turning the radio on the docking station to a rap station.
Karsten’s heart was pounding in the closet. He couldn’t hear the intruders, but he expressed very high concern that they would head upstairs where his siblings (ages 9, 7, 4, 3) and mama were. His emotions were racing. He described that time, not as primarily fearful for himself, but a strong sense of “I can’t believe this is happening here, happening to us.”
The men left with a slam of the door and raced to the car where a waiting 15-year old was in the rear seat of their car. The gunman drove away and out of our subdivision.
Just after I arrived home, the police descended on our subdivision. It was a harrowing time of details and shock, reporting and telling, fingerprinting and rehashing. And the police were great. Metro Nashville Police were highly esteemed in our eyes, but now much more so. They were kind and thorough and were gracious with our whole family.
Because of Karsten’s very detailed description of the men and a neighbor’s very exact description of the car, the four were caught within an hour, the iPod and gun (with a 33-bullet clip) were recovered, and have all admitted to being involved in some way. The DA is seeking a whole host of charges, perhaps including aggravated kidnapping for each of the four involved (TN law does not exclude the one who didn’t come in the house).
There is a definite gravity to this event in our lives. We were immediately and intensely thankful. We were thankful that God had spared Karsten’s life; our precious son still lives! God had kept our other little ones upstairs. He had kept the bad guys downstairs. He had allowed the bad guys to be consternated and leave sooner than they had to (they said they were not in the house that they meant to be in). We appreciate what sort of tragedy may have come last week and how different our lives almost were. We appreciate that there was a quarter of inch pull between life and death and that God controlled even that quarter-inch of space.
At the same time, we have slept well every night since. We have resolved together that God is King, even outside of church. In the moments after the police left, Karsten found his shoulders in my squeezing hands, and we were face to face with me telling him plainly and slowly that, “No one can hurt you. No one in this world can touch or harm you without God’s permission.” I quoted Spurgeon to him, saying, “The God who has been sufficient until now can be trusted to the end.”
We have been so loved this week. We have received encouragements and prayers and Scripture and texts and calls from the world over. In the midst of the trauma, we have received this very special dispensation of overt love that have made all the creaky pains seem lighter. Karsten has been fantastic. He has met two very competent, professional and compassionate District Attorneys, a wonderful victim advocate, an amazing arresting officer, a hilarious CSI, two of Nashville’s finest detectives, and a whole precinct (practically) of caring officers and sergeants. He has been prepped and sworn in for two different hearings already but has not been called to testify, though we are pretty certain he will need to do so in the future, perhaps many times. He has been interviewed on TV, and I’ve turned down two other interviews because that one was hard enough for him.
Today’s hearing was especially hard since it was a packed courtroom with the oldest two defendants present, many family members of the defendants, a news team, a whole gaggle of court crew and 15+ police officers waiting to testify. We were told he wouldn’t be needed and then were told in the middle of it that he would be brought in. He was calm (and a little bemused about the loose tooth that was hanging from his gums that he wasn’t ready to pull out today), but I was trembling for him today. In the end, the D.A. said she didn’t need him.
It has been a whirlwind, though, mostly of happy graciousness. That man did not pull the trigger. Those men did not go upstairs where our other three boys and little girl were. We are safe. We are warm in our home together. We can sleep in peace.
We are lucky. We live in this corner of the world where we can live softly with high birth rates, heated blankets, electronic amenities, soft-serve yogurt on every corner…. We live in a part of the world where crime still shocks us and calls us to the realities of a fragile and desperate world. I don’t deserve five healthy kids. They are a grace. I don’t deserve the Gospel love I’m shown each day either, but we have a good God with a perfect Son who made a perfect atonement for my trouble. He solved and healed my woes. And now I can’t look on these other things as my own. I’ve written this before, but Christie and I will recite on occasion what we know is true: “These kids are not ours; they are God’s. He gave them; He can take them. Nothing is too good or should be too close for our God to take.”
My sympathy for Vaughn, Birdsong, Kelly and Spears is high. While I want the judicial system to do its work on them and want them penalized, I want them to know the freedom that I feel. And the freedom is not a result of my lack of leg irons and handcuffs and steel bars. My freedom comes because I know the truth of the Gospel, and I believe the plain truths of Ecclesiastes, that you can have nothing in this world–no freedom, no people, no things–and life can still be rich.
I am fortunate; I have my child and my family is whole. The four defendants are fortunate–I was shopping for home defense shotguns 22 hours before they intruded my home; and, if I were home, I would have been steps away from a pistol. For this, I am thankful that I was not home. I want the gun, but the stories are so much uglier when the guns are used.
Unapologetically, this trauma has been good for our family. It’s not that we wish it on others, are glad it happened or want it to happen again. But it allows all of us to see God’s steady, close protection and care of this family. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will declare His Lordship; and the excess and bounty will drip from our mouths and saturate our sight. May He preserve us to better declare His story to others.
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.