Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Critical Information

I was busy teaching a private art class for a friend when Asherel came bursting inside, cheeks blazing red, and said, "I went to take care of Piper (neighbor dog) and the burglar alarm went off! I don't know how to turn it off."

I called the one number the neighbor's had left with us, a work phone. The workplace informed me that P and J were on vacation. I asked if they had a cell phone contact. They didn't.
"What do I do?" I asked the respiratory therapist. While she would have been supremely helpful if I had trouble breathing, and it may come to that at any minute, she knew little about how to disarm the alarm.
"You could try calling the police...." she said, "They will be coming anyway."
After our harrowing week at the beach fighting off deadly creatures right and left, I was not thrilled with the prospect of facing police on a 100 degree day, called out for a potential burglary. Fortunately, the art class was already half an hour past ending time, so I sent the sweet boy home, and Asherel and I stood in front of the neighbor's yard with our hands up.
"Remember," I admonished the little criminal beside me, "Whatever you do, do not resist arrest. If nothing else, Matt will have his law degree in three years and will get us off."
The police arrived and looked scornfully at us as I explained that while I would love to burglarize the neighbor's home as it was much more beautifully appointed than my own, we really were only trying to care for the dog and had no idea how to turn off the alarm.
"You don't have the alarm code?" they asked, raising eyebrows.
"No," I answered.
"No cell phone number?"
"No," I said.
The policeman and policewoman glanced at each other. I thought I saw an imperceptible shaking of their heads and muttering under their breaths.
"Do any neighbors have their cell phone number or alarm code?"
"I doubt it," I answered.
I think the police wanted to arrest me if not for burglary, at least for short-sightedness.
"Well, you can call the alarm company to let them know. The alarm will likely turn off and reset itself if you lock everything up and don't go back in."
The policewoman handed me a ticket, which I was to give to the neighbors. They are allowed 2 "free" police visits due to incompetent false alarm calls. On the third one, they would be fined.
"This was not in the job description," I said.

So even a seemingly simple task like walking a dog gets muddled. So often, we don't realize what information we are missing until it is too late. If we only knew everything that was going to be on the test, how much easier it would be to pass. That desire to have all the critical knowledge is as old as the heavens. Remember the rich man in the Bible who approaches Jesus, just like an anxious 5th grader on the eve of the history exam:
"Master, tell me, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
The passage is in Mark 10, but I will paraphrase. You can read the text yourself to check for accuracy.
Jesus responds with a laundry list a mile long of all the things the rich man needs to have done. Most of us more humble, and depraved types would have shaken our heads and known right then and there that eternal life, like an A+ on the history exam we hadn't studied for, was impossible.
But the rich man proclaims that he has done every one of those things since his youth. Jesus' response is what floors me. Instead of saying, "You pompous braggart! Get real!", the Bible reports that Jesus looked at the man lovingly. He then gently tells the rich man that now he needs to sell everything he has, give to the poor, and then follow Jesus. The rich man goes away "sad".
" Maybe eternal life is not all it is cracked up to be," he grumbles, as he clutches his wallet and walks away.

So having all the pertinent information is critical, but sometimes the alarm is going to keep blasting our cochlear implants anyway. Alarms are good. They serve a valuable purpose. My conscience alarm rings day and night. The rich man went away sad for good reason. He figured out that none of us will inherit eternal life on our own power, no matter how many angel cell phone numbers we have, or how many codes we may know to try to swing open the pearly gates. But there is still a way.... and that is the one key bit of information I cling too:

Matthew 19
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"

26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

1 comment:

  1. Six police cars, lights flashing, with twelve white cops inside, descended on the house across the street yesterday afternoon. The young black son of the former Garfield High School principal was suspected of robbing a bank. Case of mistaken identity...kid apparently handled himself very well under pressure....