And my grandmother, trusting and sanguine as I am, left this on her dressing table. The maid vanished–as did the gold.
Everyone wanted my grandfather to report the maid to the Parish Priest, which in the interconnected Catholic town of Mangalore would mean that she would never get married in the church, and would eventually be caught.
He shrugged. My father, remembers him saying in the words of Job “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
* * *
Many years later, when I flew to India, with Roy, my very-new husband, he, carelessly, foolishly, put my 24-carat gold jewellery in an unlocked suitcase—which did not arrive in Bangalore.
I was exasperated. “Roy, who puts jewellery in a suitcase rather than hand luggage? And what kind of person does not lock the suitcase?” I scolded.
“Sshh,” my father said, for he wanted my marriage to work. He told me the story of his father who said with Job “Should we accept good from the hand of the Lord and should we not accept evil?” when he lost his entire life’s savings to date.
I had recommitted my life to following Jesus a little before we married, 24 years ago, so I decided to echo my grandfather in the face of annoying financial loss. However, I put that missing suitcase on my prayer list—“even now”–and continued asking God to find it.
After 90 days, we got our $500 compensation form TWA. And on the 91st day, a phone call. Roy had not bothered with an updated luggage tag, but there was an old one from Johns Hopkins University where he had got his Ph.D. TWA called Johns Hopkins, who gave them our current address in Stanford University, Palo Alto, where Roy was doing a post-doc. And we got the suitcase, 3 months later, and yes, all that pesky precious gold was still in that unlocked suitcase.
We live in a world of magic and miracles. Never forget that.
So we were richer by $500–and one lesson in trust and faith and miracles.
* * *
And my grandfather? Did good come from losing his life’s savings? Well, he no longer invested in gold, but in land, and died with three houses–two in the centre of Mangalore, and one in Cubbon Road, the posh heart of Bangalore, near the erstwhile Residency, now Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s residence; and the granite Vidhana Soudha, the state legislature–houses that when sold provided part of the down-payment for my first house.
He worked harder as a result of the theft, and realised more deeply that all his wealth came from God–for, unlike my scholarly maternal grandfather, he was a self-made man, who made a fortune through uncanny brilliance. When his private practice dropped, he’d scold my grandmother, “Josephine, are you giving? Give. You are not giving; that is why I am not getting.”
Home-grown prosperity theology perhaps, but it worked. People got sick; he cured them, they rewarded him lavishly.
* * *
So my theological question really is: Can everything work for good?
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it can.
Though at times, this faith has been tested.
One amazing day on holiday in Sweden in August 2011 I felt God speak to me about my blog, and his plans for it.
And the next day, the camper van in which we were holidaying was broken into and we lost both our laptops, including the latest version of the memoir I am working on; another book I was working on which I have consequently abandoned (I hadn’t backed up my laptop for months); Roy’s laptop with precious holiday pictures; a new iPad, which sadly, didn’t even work in Sweden; and a couple of the girls’ iPods.
We did not report visible signs of breaking in, so the insurance did not cover it all.
2000-3000 pounds of loss! How could that work out for good?
* * *
Well, the burglary convinced me that when I felt Jesus next to me on the rocks at Gothenburg, Sweden, and turn and smile at me and tell me about the future of my blog, it was real. This was the consequent spiritual attack and undermining.
I had four more days on holiday, sans laptop, so I prayed for my blog, but could not work on it. And regrouping through strategizing in prayer is far better than working with brute force. For the want of a vision, the people perish.
The lost laptop recalibrated my habits. Though my husband, Roy, a Maths Ph.D with 3 post-docs had retired in 2010, I still did the business accounts, and our personal investing and finances, obsessively. I checked on our business sales daily. I could tell you our net worth to a penny, and moved money around investing everything optimally. I did not believe Roy would do this, so I did it myself, first thing in the morning.
My therapist thought this was a waste of the precious first thing in the morning hour, and so it was. What an uninspiring timewasting way to start one’s day, checking on credit cards and bank statements and sales—necessary when we were running our business with the slimmest of margins, but I continued it though we had been well into profit for nearly 3 years then.
So I turned the finances over to Roy, and it’s a weight off my chest, more brain space for writing and spiritual thought. He does not do money or business as I do—perhaps he does it better, perhaps worse—we argue about this when we are cross!–but we are eating and living. Well.
What good came out of the theft? I berated Roy to our therapist for his fail-safe, highly recommended method of protecting our laptops—throwing a towel over them—and for leaving the girls iPods in full view. And possibly leaving the van unlocked. The therapist said, “Well, he’ll never leave the car or laptops unlocked again.” And indeed he won’t. (Though he did not pay the 1 euro protection fee to the car-guarding people in Sicily this December and 2 of his favourite coats, and my least favourite coat were stolen from the trunk of our locked car!)
And I’ve saved scores of hours probably by no longer checking on our business sales or our personal finances. That hasn’t yet been converted to money—but, God willing, one day it will be.
* * *
Well, I returned from holiday in the Loire Valley at six a.m. yesterday, and walked into a nightmare.
My beloved Chrysler Town and Country mini-van that we had bought in American in 2001 was missing. Irene used to call it “the bupper van,” because I proudly said, “SuperMom in her SuperVan” whenever I drove it.
My front door was wide open. A door had been smashed in, and burglars had entered stealing our large screen TV, the first we’d bought; both my daughters’ laptops (we’d taken ours with us); both their iPods; Irene’s Nintendo Wii that she bought with her own money; my beloved black leather handbag; our silver cutlery set; Irene’s beloved costume jewellery–though all my valuable stuff I had, providentially put in a bank vault a few days before leaving.
The CID have been out, and the forensics unit finger-printing the crime scene,
Okay then, how does one process all this, from a God point of view?
1 God can bring good out of ANYTHING. Ask him to bring good out of your disasters and stand on the ramparts and wait and see what he will do.
The whole of Scripture which I believe is brilliant and inspired—from Adam and Eve’s choices; to Joseph rising from slave to premier; to Christ’s death releasing his very Spirit to live within us—is based on the premise that God can bring good out of evil.
2a We omitted to get contents insurance, foolishly. A false economy. We will now get it.
2B Irene who had a half term’s work on her stolen laptop will learn to back up. She had typed her notes in class; perhaps she will move to writing, then typing them at home, which is a form of revision and more theft-proof.
We will get the girls Macs which are more reliable.
3 Big benefit. Both Roy and I will work a little harder and hopefully smarter to earn money to replace all this stuff –a TV, 2 laptops, a handbag, etc.
I am a big believer in enough. We had enough to pay bills, so were spending more time in getting a bit fitter and a bit healthier, and spiritually stronger. But I guess we will work on making money till we’ve replenished our savings after replacing all this—and work settles the mind and heart.
4 We will practice trusting God. Just as physical fitness is theoretical until put to the test—running 3 miles, say, we do not know whether we really trust God until tested, by financial reverses, say.
Some things we only learn by practising them. Praise God in all circumstances. Rejoice always. In everything give thanks.
Learning and practising these things is no small gain.
5 We are reminded that our life is not really ours, anyway.
Our life is not ours; our body is not ours; our health is not ours, our money is not ours, our blogs are not ours, our time is not ours. God gives us these things, God can take them away.
Our health, our wealth, and our success is in God’s hands. The money to buy all the stuff that was stolen we acquired through God’s blessing on our endeavours. We will continue aligning with him, continue asking him to bless the work of our hands.
6 It’s a great opportunity to practice humour.
I greeted the police with, “Forgive us; our house is not normally this messy.”
And everyone laughed.
We are dealing with this annoyance with ironic humour, a great coping tool.
7 And we will practise being happy in the Lord anyway, because we still dwell in the fountain of God’s goodness and mercy and it still flows.
We will rejoice in the steady goodness of God, because God can bring good out of even this. We will learn rejoicing by practising it.
So what is the proper response of the victim of a burglary?
My children are a bit frustrated with how calmly I am taking it –but it’s this:
Be at peace. Possess your soul in patience. Let nothing disturb thee. Let nothing affright thee, in the words of Saint Teresa of Avila.
Worship the Lord who has given so many good things
Worship the Lord who can turn all things to good.
Be at rest, oh my soul.
P.S. Please pray we recover all our stuff.
Have you ever been the victim of theft or burglary? How did you cope?