Thieves on Each Side
I hang in contradiction to myself on both sides of the cross; a thief in either case, a sinner. Not thought to be redeemable in most people’s society. Not worthy to be given a second chance in this world of flesh and blood. At once I’m both humble and arrogant. As much as I beg to be remembered in another world, I’m also capable of rejecting the One that can bring me the forgiveness I need in this one.
Encountered each day is a choice of being one thief or the other. As we recognize what latches onto our attention in life we must also come to terms with what can either ignite our souls or make us numb to our surroundings. One thief hangs his head in anger and turns away, just as we turn our heads from most uncomfortable situations. Consider the man with the handwritten “homeless” sign on the street corner. Is this person in our midst really in pain and suffering? How do we know? Do we ignore them and condemn them even more because we don’t want to admit how much they remind us of ourselves? Or maybe how much worse off we could easily be than they are? Or are they in truth in the same condition we are in, but we choose to ignore our own reality and refuse to acknowledge that their pain is also our relief? Why are we repulsed? The choice is ours. Easily enough, we ridicule them, expecting this to ease our own pain through it.
At the same time the other thief awakens for a moment, drawn into the face of this person before them; this face that shows up on our street corner. All of a sudden we remember. We feel. Compassion consumes us. This world may have taken its toll on us both, but we are not done. And we are not alone. Because this face is also the face of the one who invites us in, arms open wide, inviting us in to share the pain, to be with them in and through the pain. The pain is real. The face is real. The cross is real. The sorrow flows outward and into this world like the blood that drips from the face, hands, feet, and wounds from leather stripped skin of that one who hangs on the cross between us.
Yes, between us, between two thieves, between two sinners. One too caught up in his own sorrow to recognize how close forgiveness is; one too alive in his own death to allow this world to pass away without a second chance. Which thief will I be?