Written By Shelley Pearl, New Zealand
“I’ve to run. My flat . . . someone’s entered my flat. I must go,” I told my boss in a barely audible whisper.
I could hardly believe my ears when I received a phone call from my sister to say we had been robbed. We live in a very safe suburb, so to learn that our flat had been entered into was shocking. Questions raced through my head as I drove home on the motorway, barely registering the trucks and cars on the road.
I was certain that my computer, iPad, and laptop would have been filched. But when I pulled into the driveway and saw that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” I thought.
But the nightmare began the moment I stepped into my unit. Initially, my mind refused to register what the eyes saw—the room was a mess. The burglars had gained access through my bedroom window; its security latches had been hacked in half.
Drawers had been emptied of their contents, and their contents were strewn all over the floor and on the bed. An armchair that used to sit next to my bedroom window was now in the middle of the room. The contents of my backpack were scattered all over the floor and my backpack was gone; the burglars had likely used it to take away their stash.
My year-old camera was gone as well, and the container I used to keep it in had been thrown underneath my bed. The other things in it had been taken too—my passport, a small sum of foreign currency, and a stack of coffee loyalty cards that resembled credit cards (no doubt the thieves would be disappointed upon discovering the cards were useless). Our electronics, however, were left intact. The desktop was presumably too heavy and the iPad was of an older model.
As my sister and I surveyed our flat, our heart sank with each step we took. Our walk-in cupboard was a wreck, and the burglars had pawed through our storage units, foraging through our winter wear. They had taken handbags, probably attracted by the faux diamonds on the bags. Our designer jewellery, given to us as birthday presents and at other important occasions, were also missing.
I was sad, angry, and devastated all at once. I was sad that I had lost my valuables, as I had worked hard to buy them. And I was so angry that there was someone out there who thought he could help himself to things that weren’t his. Growing up, we were taught not to take what wasn’t ours, so why was it OK for these people to do just that?
Exhaustion washed over us as we trawled through our unit; the rapidly cooling evening air blowing through my broken bedroom window was a reminder of how our little haven had been shattered, our privacy violated.
Still, we were thankful that no one was hurt and we still had each other.
As horrible as the incident was, it made me realize how fleeting our material possessions are. When I left for work that morning, our valuables were sitting in their respective places; in less than two hours, they had vanished without a trace.
The burglary made me see the truth in Jesus’ words about not storing our treasures on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). For the longest time, I had seen this verse as something that parents used to discourage children from desiring the newest and latest items their friends had.
Now, I saw how temporal our earthly possessions really were—here one minute, gone the next. A week or two after my camera was taken, the manufacturer announced the release of a newer model with added features. Really, there is no way of keeping up with the latest and greatest. And, to be honest, my life doesn’t feel any less without some of these items which I had bought thinking they would add value to my everyday existence.
Unfortunately, the police were unable to catch the culprits and closed the case. Meanwhile, our apartment has been fitted with alarm and CCTVs, and we are also looking to do grills for the windows.
When my sister’s workmates heard of the news, two of them swung by on a Saturday morning to help us tidy the flat. One of them brought her daughter to help, and they even brought us some food, knowing we would be too overwhelmed to think of cooking. We were moved by their readiness to give up their precious Saturday morning, when a text of “thinking of you” could have sufficed.
The incident reminded me of how Jesus told us to store our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), which I believe means investing in things that have everlasting value. The actions of my sister’s workmate showed me that these things include relationships. When we spend our time investing into the lives of others, be it helping someone who is going through a difficult time or taking the effort to befriend a lonely person, we are sowing treasures in heaven.
These treasures, unlike our earthly possessions, are safe from opportunists. For example, many years ago, a woman came up to me to say she remembered the time a group from my church had dropped by her house to help clean her place. But no one has ever come up to me to say they remembered a lovely dress or handbag I had. You see, I believe no one remembers what we own, but they remember what we have done for them.
Admittedly, it has been awhile since I have taken the time to sow into the lives of others. I cannot remember the last time I had intentionally invited a friend out for a lunch just to catch up. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’m so exhausted from working, swim training, and doing household chores, that all I really want to do is sit at home with a book. Imagine how many of my relationships have withered due to my lack of investment in them (I’m not keeping tabs because I don’t want to find out!)
It is so easy in our era of social media and endless consumerism to feel we need to have beautiful things for our life to be meaningful. While there is nothing inherently wrong in desiring nice things, I believe it must not be our end-all and be-all of life. I would be lying if I said the burglary completely wiped out my desire of owning nice, new things. No, I still love shopping, but these days, I am more mindful about what I invest in.
The burglary has showed me that the items I counted as precious were really quite mundane—photos of my friends and my family, my book collection, my wetsuit for ocean swims, and laughably, my newly bought pillows and duvets, which had cost me a fair bit. Yet, as these items had no resale value, the thieves had left them. I have learned that it’s not worth putting stock on material items, as they can disappear in the blink of an eye.
From now on, I’m going to work more on storing my treasures in heaven. I know, it does sound a bit dull not being able to show off your latest wears, but I believe when we quietly build a rich storehouse of good works, our reward in heaven will make any earthly possessions look like rags.