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Nancy cried as we unpacked our household goods. I seethed with anger. We’d just moved across the country, and when we unpacked we found dozens of broken items scattered through the boxes: the ornate ceramic cross a friend gave us several Easters before, the framed painting of Jesus, a wooden crèche, a copper jewelry box that held a miniature Bible. We also discovered our gold coin collection was missing along with more than two hundred CDs.

The damage looked deliberate. None of the broken items had been wrapped in protective paper. The movers simply tossed them among  other unwrapped items, such as books and metal pans—almost as if they wanted them to break.

“It isn’t fair,” Nancy said later that evening as we ate our supper. I knew what she meant. We’re a military family, and we’ve crossed the country seven times in seventeen years. We’ve left family and said Goodbye to church friends, knowing it might be years—if ever—before we would see them again.

But we make these sacrifices because we love our country and want to do all we can to protect it. That’s why it hurts all the more when people we serve do what they did.

Two months later, while I stood at a CD rack in a local music store, I spotted a title we’d owned before the move. As I read the cover, a  sudden lust for vengeance washed over me. Maybe I could contact the right people and cause the moving company to lose its contract with the military because they hired scoundrels.

But just as suddenly as my anger had flared, it froze, for a new thought crossed my mind: The men robbed you once. Why let them rob you again?

I knew exactly who asked the question, and what He meant by it. A subtle, nearly imperceptible change had occurred in me during those  weeks after our move. The pleasure I once received while reading the Bible had nearly dried up. My prayers had become superficial and rote and I had difficulty concentrating on the pastor’s sermons at church. My anger was robbing me of something far more valuable than what we’d lost to the movers.

This was one of those “A-ha!” moments. Light exploded in my mind, breaking through the confusion. God was telling me that in just a few weeks I’d become example number one of His warning about roots of bitterness

Forgiveness has never been easy for me. But at that moment I realized  that my willingness to forgive was crucial to my continued spiritual growth. If Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, can I do less when someone steals from me?

Forgiveness frees me to be at peace with God. It frees me to hear from Him, move with Him, to imitate Him. Yet even as I write this, I’m not sure I have forgiven the movers. Perhaps I’ve only fooled myself into thinking I’ve forgiven them, when in reality I’ve simply chosen not to hold a grudge.

I admit that’s not the same as forgiveness, but it’s a step in the right direction. And I can only pray that my ability to really forgive is the next step in my journey toward becoming more like Christ.

Being robbed once is bad enough. I won’t be robbed twice.

Richard Maffeo writes from Gig Harbor, Washington.

I Won't Be Robbed Twice

by Richard Maffeo
From the September 2005 Signs