"Give it back!" I could hear the little voice blaring from the other room.
It was quickly followed by a piercing cry. Before I had a chance to drop what I was doing Ryan came running into the room. He planted his little hands firmly on his hips and stared up at me with all the indignation he could muster.
"She took my toy from me and she won't give it back!" He cried out to me defiantly. Behind him my oldest daughter, Sahara, walked into the room carrying a bottle of rug cleaner. She carefully skirted around Ryan and handed it to me.
Sahara told me how Ryan had been in my bedroom, which is off limits to the boys I baby-sit, and had gotten under my sink and found the bottle. He had been squirting the walls with it.
My little charge's face began to pucker up. He started yelling that she had taken the "toy" away from him. My first reaction was to get angry and admonish him for being in my bedroom, but instead I sat him on the couch for a time-out. We both needed it. As I cleaned up Ryan's mess, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit.
How often was I somewhere I was not supposed to be? How many times had I gotten into things that I should never have touched? Then the Lord brought to mind something that I had done that week that I shouldn't have. Like Ryan, I had stepped over the boundaries of God's authority.
I cried out that this was different. Ryan could have been poisoned by the cleaner. What I had done had not hurt anyone. I felt the Lord withdraw from me as I began to argue with Him. But somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, Am I not just as guilty as Ryan is? Had I not, on the spiritual level, taken something that didn't belong to me? Hadn't I stolen God's glory in my simple act?
I was reminded of the sermon series our pastor had been teaching.
For the last several months we had been taking a deep look into the Ten Commandments. Last week he had talked about the Eighth Commandment: "Do not steal." At the time I had thought, That's not a problem for me. I don't steal. However, I began to see that commandment in a new way.
Many of us have never taken something that doesn't belong to us—at least in the natural sense we haven't. But we are all guilty of stealing on a daily basis. We don't always mean to, but I know that I often steal time away from the Lord when I focus on something other than His will for my life. We steal time from our children when we allow those hectic days at the office to follow us home. We steal time from our spouses when we let things like household chores and carting the kids around take up all our time.
I had indeed stolen this week. I had stolen the joy from a loved one and had made it my own. Just like Ryan I had gone where I shouldn't have and had used something with potentially poisonous consequences. As I sat down with Ryan to talk about what he had done, I could hear the Holy Spirit whispering into my ear. My Father wanted to talk to me about what I had done. I too would have to make amends.
It will take some time with the Lord, but we all need to look at the areas of our lives where we are stealing. I know that our Father would want us go into those private places and search our hearts to bring back to Him that which is not rightfully ours.
By Tina Burroughs