Auto Theft and Faith

Dear Fellow Travelers:

About 10 years ago, my 1995 Cutlass Ciera was stolen from the street two blocks from my apartment in Hyde Park. I did get it back a week or so later, and how that happened can be an illustration for another musing, but today’s focus is on that bizarre moment when I believed something was going to be there and it wasn’t.

I can’t remember where I was planning to go, but I do know from the police report it was August 17, 2009. Relying on a Google search, I can affirm now that it was a Monday. From memory I can only recall my sense of disorientation. What I believed--that my car would be on the west side of Lake Park Boulevard between 55th and 54th Streets--was not confirmed by experience. My first response was to doubt my memory; the second was to doubt my son who had last driven the car. My third thought was to check for any temporary towing warning signs, but finding none, I could only surmise the vehicle had been stolen.

Having your belief unhinged by experience isn’t fun. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance pretty much described the process I experienced in loss, perhaps lingering a little too long over the anger phase. But loss triggers grief, and negotiating the next few weeks without a vehicle, along with the compounded grief inflicted by the CPD impound lot, taught me something about belief, faith and expectation.

This Sunday we will celebrate our Confirmation class. As is our tradition, the faith statements of our class members will be shared and distributed to the congregation. If you think you know where our young people’s faith is “parked”, you’re in for some disorientation and perhaps even some grief. What they say in their statements may not be what we’ve grown to expect, but the streets aren’t as predictable as they used to be, and what we expect isn’t necessarily what we find.

Casting about for a new vehicle, I realized I was in no position to purchase a replacement car. Without comprehensive insurance, there was no settlement check; I was starting from scratch. I was pastoring in Peotone at the time, and Mike Doyle, a member at the Methodist church, had a small Toyota pickup I could borrow for as long as I needed. Even when I was rear-ended by a CTA bus (a subject for another musing), his generosity was unfazed. My loss, my grief, my unmet expectations were superseded by Mike’s authentic kindness. It didn’t matter what I believed, or who to blame, or how I felt or if he would benefit (I wasn’t even Mike’s pastor); what mattered to him was meeting my need.

That’s the lens through which we can see our confirmands' faith statements. We are not confirming that our young people are where we believe they should be; it is their confirmation, not ours. We are preparing to share in addressing their needs whatever they happen to be. If we indulge in the luxurious grief of unmet expectations, then we rightfully need to question the usefulness of our own faith. Not to engage in condescending condemnation of “dangerous” spiritual neighborhoods or “negligent” parking, but to refine our ability and willingness to provide meaningful transport from where they are to wherever their spiritual journey takes them.

Enjoying the ride made possible by the generosity of others, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor