To be honest I have not been paying as much attention to the text this week as I am not sharing the word this Sunday, we have guests.  I’ve shared the story you are about to read on another blog (edited a bit for here), so some of you may have read this before, but here goes:

When I was young I apparently had a habit of stealing things; I got caught twice but the first time did not count since I genuinely thought that it was OK to take a cherry from the stand in Safeway.  The consequences were immediate and I paid the price for that by almost choking to death as soon as I shoved it in my mouth.  I was like 4, give me a break 😛  and since I almost died I did not get punished, my poor grandma probably had a mild heart attack that day, she was running around the store trying to find a phone to call an ambulance, and some lady turned me upside down and stuck her fingers down my throat and got the cherry out!  (my family spends a great deal of time laughing at my expense on this one)

The next time I stole something I was a little bit older and I did it more than once.  I think I was around 10 or 11, and I had a habit (for a couple of days anyways) of going into Safeway, and getting myself a treat.  Seems reasonable except I never paid for the treat, I always pocketed it.

Well like all good thieves, I eventually got caught.

Here is what went down:

I had been lucky previously in my theft, so I decided to go all out this day, and I stole a couple of those little chocolate eggs with the cream in them (because back then they really were only around at Easter), and a chocolate bar of some sort, and I as I was almost out of the store the blonde lady who had been watching me and trying to catch me for weeks finally caught up with me.

I can remember my heart sinking to my stomach as I heard the words behind me, excuse me did you pay for those items?  I got pulled into the back office by Alda (who has a name like Alda anyways?).  She got the head manager in there, and let me tell you when I think back on it, everyone in that room that day was stupid, them and me.

The manager makes me empty my pockets and then proceeds to ask me what I was going to do with the stolen chocolate.

UMMMMMMM I think I will sell it on the black market or exchange it for crack!  No seriously what did he think I was going to do with it….I was gonna eat it, maybe share with my friends!  I was not quite so vocal back then and just said something like I don’t know.

Then because my parents were not home, he tells me I gotta give him my name and phone number so he can call them later.  He’s gotta be stupid, to think that a kid he has just caught stealing is gonna give him the right information.  The stupid thing was, I did.  I said my name is  _______ and my phone number is __________.  I could have given him false information and no one would have known.  However I would have never learned my lesson had I not gotten in trouble.

Here is where it gets really stupid though.

Because of my actions, I got banned from the store FOR LIFE!  That’s right, they told scared little me, 10-11 years old (at the most), that I could never enter that store again for as long as I was alive.

The punishment is a little extreme don’t you think?  I mean yes I knew it was wrong to steal in this case.  I knew I should not do it, but I did anyways, but I was a kid making a mistake…even murderers sometimes get paroled.  FOR LIFE?!?!

Well I guess I am guilty of another sin, because I’ve since been to store…many many times.  I shop there regularly when I am in my home town.  No one has kicked me out yet, but I guess I look a little different now.

I just think it is a good thing that God is not like those store managers of the 1980′s.

As I think about Jesus farewell discourse, I remember that up until this point in the story nothing has ever gone perfectly when it comes to the disciples.  They have had AHA moments for sure, but they’ve also experienced doubt and missed the point several times as well.  I get a sense that even as Jesus tells his disciples to keep his commands that he knows they are going to struggle with that and make mistakes, so he offers the immediate promise of the advocate.  Someone who is going to not ban them when they make a mistake, but someone who is going to stand up for them, stand in their defense and help them along.

As we experience that grace in our lives, and as we have one who advocates for us, I also wonder what it would look like too, when we stand up for others instead of shoving them down or trying to punish them…it might just look like the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world.