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It had been a quick, over-a-long-weekend trip from our home in Hungary to visit our daughter in Germany, just four days. We had done all the wrong things: failed to alert our neighbors we’d be gone, failed to set lamp timers to look like we were home mornings and evenings. We were clearly going away by light of day, loading luggage into our car parked conveniently in the driveway in full view of any passerby. With repeated trips to the car, we noticed some work going on at the house across the street, and idly wondered what the neighbors were doing. The workers watched us load our car—and leave.

Our joyful weekend came to an abrupt halt when we arrived home and saw our back door ajar. One push of it open wide revealed the dining room in complete chaos. We heard a voice coming from upstairs and recognized it as our friend and colleague. He came down to tell us he was on the phone with the police.

“Ed,” I gulped, “have we been robbed?”

It was a needless question. We walked slowly through our ravaged home with our mouths hanging open. Every drawer in every room had been pulled out and dumped on the floor, resembling our own private hurricane. Close examination of the back door showed it had been forced and the lock broken. The police came, took photos and copious notes, and then said, “We’ll never catch them.” The implication was: we won’t even try. It was well known that there were too many house burglaries for the police to follow up.

It took days to put things back in order. Ironically, the thieves did not find what they were looking for. In our small town of Törökbálint, bill collectors often came to the door expecting to be paid in cash, so Trent had a file folder in his home office with the money we’d need for the upcoming month. All the folders had been rifled through, including that one. But the cash had not been found.

We know better. We know to put things in place to protect our home when leaving it for a time. We tell the neighbors. We set lamp timers. But this was a short and hastily-planned trip. We left undone what we should have done.

Jesus said something about moth and rust corrupting our precious things and about thieves who break in and steal. Moth and rust were plenty familiar to me. Moths had been devouring the wall-to-wall carpet in our bedroom before we figured out what was happening. It was too late to save the carpet. One of our cars had to sit out on the street in front of our apartment building in Germany for years in all weathers, so naturally it began seriously rusting. It was just a matter of time before it totally rusted out.

Jesus didn’t mention dust, but we have only to think of Miss Haversham in Great Expectations i to know what unchecked dust can do. In time, it makes a house unlivable. (I usually deal with mine before it gets that far.)

In an unwary moment in a crowded shop, I was oblivious to my wallet being pickpocketed out of my purse hanging invitingly over my shoulder.

But my home had never been robbed—till now. Even with our money intact, it was an unsettling feeling knowing that it could happen. That it did happen.

You never think it will happen to you.

All the more reason to pay attention to proper safeguarding.

Even so, a house theft is not the worst kind. What else—what far more precious things—do we unwittingly leave unguarded?

Everything about us—left unheeded and unprotected—is vulnerable to predators and thieves: our minds, hearts, bodies, eyes, souls. Predators which are more subtle (and even more patient) in their tactics but just as invasive. It is only a matter of time before we recognize—if then—what they have stolen from us.

Self, pride, lust, greed corrupt God’s dwelling. They creep, seep, invade my hidden heart,

cover the surfaces of my soul, wage war in my body—and before I know it, they have corroded his precious things… I must contend with thieves who break in and steal… with swindlers who promise that Truth is right there under one of those cups—just watch it slide, glide, from one cup to another—You find it! I play their game and turn over a cup. In an unguarded moment I give them all I have, my life’s wages. But Truth is not there or anywhere under any cup, and when I look up, they are gone, on to some other unguarded house. There can be no unguarded moments. I must be watching all the time. ii

Once the moth chews up the carpet—once my precious things are stolen—it’s too late to guard them. I can only make a renewed, watchful start from now on.

Turning the light of God’s truth onto my heart helps me guard his precious things.

i Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

ii From the poem "Unguarded," by Vivian Hyatt, 1997

(Photo: Not our house)

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