Monday, November 8, 2010

Jesus and the Plunger

Cue action-packed, newscast-ish music: Trumpets, drums, and whatever that instrument that goes, dit-dit-dit-dit, dee dit-dit-dit-dit, dee dit-dit-dit-dit......

Our Top Story tonight: "Local photography business, ******** Studio, was burgled sometime late Saturday night through Monday night! Details at eleven."

Ok, I made up that word, burgled, but I like it and the TV news should start using it: burgled. Sounds even better out loud. Say it: burgled. Not "robbed," like at gunpoint, just "burgled." Like what a burglar does. He burgles.

Yes, about a month or so ago, baddies really did break a window at night snuck around and
stole stuff from the studio. Actually, it was all the camera gear that I use to earn my living. And some cash. About $600, actually.

The two-person staff where I work - we felt pretty weirded out by it. We could easily imagine people tiptoeing from room to room by the light of a dim flashlight. And touching our stuff without permission. And then making off with it. Just like that. I can't possibly tell the whole story...much too long and boring, but there were some cool parts to how the police caught the guy because of
an offhand remark about how the tenant upstairs maybe didn't like us too much. I'll call him Clyde. Clyde Jones.

The detective asked us at the very tail-end of all his questions, "So, is there anyone who would want to do this to you, like, to get back at you for anything?" I laughed, not being the enemy-making type. "No," I said. "Well, maybe the guy upstairs...he's not too happy with us since we have had to speak to him about so many things he shouldn't be doing. But really, he lives right here; he's not about to burgle the place where he lives, right?"

"Oh, Clyde, Clyde, Clyde," said my co-worker.

"Clyde?" said the cop. "Clyde Jones?"

"Why, yes." I said, surprised at the cop providing the last name. "you know Clyde Jones?"

"Oh, we know Clyde Jones. We know Clyde Jones very well..."

And so his name was added to a "person of interest" sort of list.

And don't you know but he got pulled over by the state police about an hour south of Rutland the next day? With all the camera gear, projectors, flash cards, batteries, flashes (everything easily portable and sell-able for drugs of course), right in his car. I could hear the cell door bang shut from all the way up here in Rutland. If my co-worker hadn't just casually mentioned his name, it really wouldn't have come up. And as it happened, it "blew the case wide open."

As it turns out, he only spent the one night in the slammer and then the state cops, we were shocked to hear, let him out. "Procedure," they said. "That's what they do if the guy's crime was non-violent. Release with a court date." And here's the thing: guess where he went to lay down his weary head after such a busy time of burgling and driving and getting caught? You guessed it: back upstairs in the apartment with his girlfriend! What! Yes, that's right...we were more stunned at his coming back to live upstairs than we were at the cops letting him out. So the landlord contacted the girl - I'll call her Bonnie - since it was her name on the lease. He told her that she cannot let him stay here, after what he'd just done. We were still feeling weirded out and violated and now a little frightened that Clyde was out of jail and now on the premises, coming and going with his hoodie hood up.

They were able to pick him up again on some other parole-breaking-type of charges, so it was back to the Big House for Clyde. We breathed a sigh of relief. Safe again. Or so we thought....


All the way through this whole business I had remained very calm, even peaceful. I was amazed and wowed as the facts of the case rolled out, but aside from a little anxiety the night we heard Clyde had been released, I had a calm that surprised me. Maybe I would have freaked out more if all of the equipment was mine, rather than the business's. I remember thinking about what a broken world this is and really was just focused on getting other cameras to shoot with for a wedding that Saturday. The police, on the other hand, still had some unfinished business with our tenants.

Bonnie had a lengthy interview with them about Clyde, and after a while - are you ready for this? She finally admitted that she, too, was part of the burglary! I should also mention that Bonnie and Clyde had just had a baby a mere three weeks prior to their 'visit' to the studio. Three weeks. We were aghast. They broke in to the studio together and cleaned us out while their three week old baby slept (I presume) right upstairs. That's heartbreaking. That's awful.

Right away the police filled me in on her confession, and then, as I came back from lunch, there was Bonnie having a smoke on the back porch! Oh, man! What am I supposed to say to her! She'd just stolen from me, and yet had returned to live at the very scene of the crime that she, we now knew, had a part in! And there she stood, looking exhausted and nervous and miserable. We had to talk; there was no avoiding each other. She started by saying how sorry she was about the whole business, which I suppose would have been appropriate, except she then proceeded to lie directly to my face. She said she was just finding out all kinds of things about Clyde that she didn't know. She even said, with watery eyes and quivering lower lip and wobbly voice, "and how could he do this? He's got a 3 week old baby! How could he do this?"

Remember now, she had just one hour prior confessed to the police of her own involvement. So as she said this to me, I was just plain revulsed. But having just seen my Janie go through six years of cancer hell, I have been continually asking God to make me a better person because of it. If Janie was going to have to endure her illness, and even die of it, then, like I had said at her memorial service, I (and she) wanted it to have been for have been worth something. And that should start with myself. So as I looked at Bonnie with her puffy eyes, sallow complexion and track marks (or were they cigarette burns?) on her left arm, I wanted God to give me compassion for her.

"And how could he do this? He's got a 3 week old baby! How could he do this?" She said it so convincingly, right to my face. I decided that it would be in the studio's best interest to not tip my hand yet by telling her that I knew she was involved. It might be best, I thought, if she continued to believe that she had me fooled. I'll not divulge the details, but my hunch was correct and it was good that I didn't say anything. I decided, instead, to send an indirect-yet-direct message that drugs (it was obviously done for drug money, right?) make people do crazy things, even lying to people and even burglary....since it makes them so desperate. I said I hoped that Clyde (and in veiled way, Bonnie) would find freedom from the terrible grip of drugs. And I think I said I'd pray for her Clyde and the baby.

A few days went by. Little did I know that the tables were about to be turned on me.....


Bonnie was still living above the studio (evicted, of course, but still there...). We at the studio were doing our best to go about our normal business, getting the broken windows repaired, lining up better security and borrowing backup equipment from our headquarters studio upstate. We were still a little in shock at Bonnie's involvement, and the fact of her audacity in returning to the scene of the crime to live. I was just returning from lunch when my co-worker smiled: "guess who was just here and looking for you?"

"Not Clyde!" I gasped.

"No, he's still locked up. But Bonnie was just in and said her toilet is plugged and wants to ask you if you might go up there with a plunger!"

And I think my co-worker busted out with a classic, "Bwahahahaha!" kind of laugh.

And I also think that the look on my face would properly described as, "more shocked than Mike Tyson at a spelling bee."

Stunned, I said, "you have got" (that's a drawn-out 'gaawwt') to be kidding me!"

"Oh, yes, Bonnie said it's plugged and she can't get it unplugged and needs some help........Bwahahaha!"

"Well, we both know that's not going to happen," I snapped. "She's on her own. She's done. Forget it! Let's replay the events of the last few weeks, shall we? 'Hi, I'm Bonnie. I robbed you. Can you plunge my poop?'  Nope. She's on her own this time..."

That is the moment when God stepped in. Right there in the office, as I strode around, angrily doing my work. God stepped in and made me even more angry.

"Remember that conversation you had with your friend the other day about hypocrites?"

I strode around some more. There he was again.

"Remember the chapel talk you gave once about 'loving your enemies?' How's that working for you?"

I strode around some more, closer to the wall this time.

"Remember the bit about you wanting to become a better person because of Janie's illness and death? How's that working for you?"

I tried to stride around some more, but I was cornered.

And there stood Jesus, so to speak, and he was holding out a plunger in his hand.

I was fuming by now. "Really. You are asking me to go plunge the poo of this woman?" It wasn't a question.

He looked at me. Just looked with that stupid plunger held out.

There was a long pause.And it occurred to me how he himself had done much the same when he took on human flesh so that he could die because of my filthy sins.

Finally, I snatched the blasted plunger from him and marched upstairs. Bonnie wasn't even there. One of her druggie friends was.

Me, feebly: "I hear you've got some toilet trouble."

Him: "Yup, right this way."

And there it was. The toilet with the telltale floating toilet paper. Plugged.

I shoved the plunger into the dirty water. *Plunge* Nothing. *Plunge* Still nothing.

And then the most wonderful thing happened. On the third try, the thing cleared out and sucked the poo right down the drain, and with it went my anger and my disgust and my prejudice and loathing toward the drug-addict-burglar-liar. And replacing all of these was good, old-fashioned joy. Contentment. Something snapped with that third plunge and I was free! Free to love the sallow-faced wretch with the track marks on her arm. Growing inside me, like the Grinch's new heart, was a compassion that I knew, deep inside, I should have been feeling all along.

But what to do now? Here's the thing: though I felt great, it still would do her no good at all if she never knew that I'd plunged her toilet in response to God's prompting. As far as she knew, she still had the wool pulled over my eyes about her involvement in the burglary. So it wasn't over yet.


Here's the end of it. I just couldn't rest thinking that she didn't know about my true motivation for helping her. So I wrote her a letter, spelling it all out. Now she knows that I know she was involved and she also knows why I plunged her toilet anyway. She has since moved out and I don't know what contact I'll have in the future.

So would you please pray for 'Bonnie'...and 'Clyde'....(God of course know their real names) and their little baby? They both will do jail time and I'm pretty sure the baby has been taken away by the state. The way they are living their lives now, that's probably for the best...but Jesus changing everything would be even better, right? I put a New Testament in with the letter, in which I also laid out what the gospel is and how Jesus can even cure drug addiction. If God has the power to speak the universe into existence he certainly has the power to speak life into Bonnie's heart of stone. So would you stop reading, even now, and just pray for them?


Do you have an enemy that needs you? Let me ask you this: if you get the chance to love your enemy.... well, what will you do with that moment? I hope and pray that maybe God will bless you, too, with something as fantastic as your enemy's poo.


  1. Chris - this is absolutely incredible.

    "Consider it pure joy, my brother whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2

    It looks like you "passed".

  2. Blast! Carly just told me that the word, "burgled" is a real word. We looked it up. It is.

    And I thought I was being so clever...........