To start my day my office manager and I had an appointment with the alternative measures folks over at Sask. justice. This summer, while I was away in the Congo, our regular office cleaners hired a replacement cleaner while they too were on vacation. He turned out to have a problem which drove him to do a very stupid thing – steal and forge some cheques. So today was reckoning day.
Last fall, I began meeting with some women to study Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew. We got together over coffee at a local restaurant. One night, we got talking to our waiter about what we were reading (we were the last people in the restaurant) and then got an earful about why he had decided to abandon his Christian faith; was exploring Buddhism.. He admitted that he was impressed that we let him say what he wanted to say without seeming shocked or telling him what he ought to believe. But he was changing places of work and that was the last we saw of him – as a group. Since then, I have seen and talked to him a couple of times. He’s a good waiter – pleasant, gets the orders right, efficient. So we’ve talked when I’ve been to his new work place and gotten to know a tiny bit about each other. But I knew only his first name. He knew my kids were from the Congo. I’m pretty sure he did not know my name or where my practice was.
When he walked into the mediation room this morning he looked at me and said “So that is who you are. You came in and I waited on you but you didn’t treat me as if I had done anything to you.”
And so we sat on opposite sides of the table with the mediator in between and began the process. We confronted. He apologised. He paid us restitution for the money he had taken. Then we began to talk. We talked about what had gone wrong for him, about addictions, about getting help. We talked about his gifts and talents and dreams for the future. He brought up how he had been really involved in his church and then had kind of taken a wrong turn. We talked about our own experiences, about needing to have people around us for support and accountability and of how he doesnt have to be “well” before he makes his way back to God. He doesnt think hes quite ready for that yet.
I reminded him of the group of women who were meeting when I first met him. And I warned him that we had been praying for him since then. I laughed and told him his chances of escaping God were slim with a bunch of women praying for him. I think there are just too many coincidences in the way things have played out for it to be anything but God working.
He seems to have a lot of people in his life now too that are keeping an eye on him. But I think he had a hurtful experience with some people in the church in his past. I promised to get a couple of books that might help him get a different view of the Christian faith. And giving him the books will let us keep in touch a bit too.
Not sure what the mediation officer thought of all this she did try to keep bringing us back to the nitty gritty details the police have to know about the terms of the alternative sentencing. And we got those details down on paper too.
The fellows mother thanked the mediation officer. She told how she had been asked to be in on the mediation process to deal with shoplifters when she owned a business but had always turned down the opportunity for a face to face meeting with the offender. Now, on the other end, she realised the value of this type of reconciliation and what a huge difference meeting could make.
So our session ended with his promise of letters, my promise of books, a mediations officer hunting down some options for counseling and a new appreciation for this method of dealing with a criminal offence.
Oh, yeah, I dont know if we actually talked about forgiveness in so many words. We just did it and he soaked it up. The hugs we gave at the end of the hour were real.