And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing; I pray thee, go in unto my maid; It may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. Gen. 16:2
Jim's wife asked me to come over. She sounded low. “It's Jim,” she said, “I wish you'd talk to him”.
He was in the living room, smoking a cigarette. I knew he was in trouble because he was trying to quit, and only smoked when he was tense. He was looking at the TV set but it wasn't on.
“What's up?” I asked him. “Didn't Shirley tell you? “he asked. “No, she just said I should come over.”
Oh, it’s the damned cops,” he said. “We went to the grocery store and on the way home they started following me. I wasn't doing anything wrong. I never want to give them an excuse to pull me over. But all at once the blue lights came on, so I pulled over and stopped. This cop came up to the window and said "What have you been up to?”
“Just picking up a few groceries," I told him.
“Let's see," he said. The other cop, some young guy, joined him. “Open her up”, he said, he had his hand on the trunk.
When I opened the trunk lid, they both started taking out our bags and putting stuff on the street. They took every last thing out and put it right on the pavement. Shirley had bought a bunch of celery and he just threw it down so it could get dirty. When he had everything out of the bags, he picked up a can of pepper and held it right up to my face.
“What's this?”, he wanted to know. “What in the hell do you think it is, I told him, it's a can of pepper!” I was really mad I could have killed him. I still could. Then he started threatening me.
“You just watch your mouth”, he said. “I can make it hard on you.” I told him, “I thought that's what you are doing.”
Shirley was in the kitchen, fixing supper. She was crying.
“I never knew how this all started, Jim. Why are they harassing you?"
“Oh, it all began with that shoe store thing, they're mad because they think I got off too easy,” he said. He told me story.
“We really needed a car but I didn't have the money. Shirley was trying to save up for one, she's really good at that. “Just put a little away each month”, she said. “We'll have enough before you know it.” But to me it was like forever.
I knew a guy who would buy anything and knew how to resell it. Usually they don't give you much, they tell you how risky it is and everything. But I knew him pretty well and I figured he would give me a good deal. There was a men's shoe store I knew of. I even was going to buy some shoes there once until I found out how expensive they were.
It had alarms all over the place, but I figured, they don't think to put them on the roof. I parked my car by the side door in the alley. I made sure I had clearance, because it was a fire door and opened out.”
“Wouldn't that set off the alarm?,” I asked.
“Yeah, but I figured I could load the stuff into the car and get out of there before they would get there. I took the rear seat out, to make more room and I had an old tent to cover the stuff with. I went up a fire escape and made a hole in the roof. I used a pry bar and I had some rope to let myself down."
“You mean a crowbar?,” I asked.
“Yeah, only it was flat, and you could pry stuff and pull nails with one end. The roof was easy to get through, it was old. I used the bar to attach the rope, crosswise over the hole, and let myself down. The only thing is I didn't have a long enough rope. I had to hold onto the end of the rope and let myself drop.
When I did it made a loud sound, I hit pretty hard. Then I heard a dog bark. I could hear his toenails as he came running into the back room. He was a big dog, maybe part Shepherd, part Lab. The hair on his neck stood up and he was growling real low. Well, I thought, I've had it. He's going to keep me here 'til the owner arrives in the morning. But I was always good with dogs, they like me. I just sat down flat on the floor, less threatening, you know. I patted my leg and he put his ears down and came right over. I figure he was no trained dog or anything, just there to bark and scare you off. Besides, he was probably lonely from being there all by himself at night.
He let me get up and I walked into the shop. I started stacking boxes of shoes right by the side door so I could load them real fast when I was ready to open the door. That old dog was right with me, every trip I made.
But just as I was ready to open the fire door, the cops were coming in the front door. The owner was there too, with the keys. It turns out that he had the place rigged for sound. He had some kind of thing that picked up every sound, like a baby monitor. He heard the dog barking and called the cops. He lived practically next door.
But I hadn't actually taken anything out yet. Intent, you know. The hole in the roof was no big deal, just tar paper. The only trouble I had been in up 'til then was just traffic violations.
I never told you this before, but I got off easy, that's what made the cops so mad. Now they'll never leave me alone.”
“Jim, you know why you're in this fix,” I said. “I'm not saying the cops should treat you this way, just you have to avoid trouble in the first place. You know Shirley was right. You need to be patient. You could have saved enough at least for a down payment..."
“Oh I know all that now!" Jim interrupted me. “But you don't know what it's like when you've never had anything in your whole life and you see a chance to get something. You just take the first chance you have.”
"The same thing happened to Abraham and Sarah, Jim. Only they didn't have those names yet. God promised them a great inheritance, but they didn't have a child and they were getting old. When Sarah said, take my maid, Abraham fathered a son by her Egyptian maid. His name was Ishmael, he was half Abrahamic and half Egyptian. God said Ishmael would have twelve sons and they would become a great nation. The story starts in Genesis chapter 17, but it's still going strong. It seems like Ishmael's descendants live on top of a lot of oil..."
Jim couldn't restrain himself, “You mean that's where all them Moslems come from?,” he asked.
“Well, that was the beginning of the Arabs,” I told him. “Muslims, as they are called now, are not all Arabs, and all Arabs are not of the Islamic religion. Some are Christians just like you and me.
The Jews today, know this story well. The Arabs are half from Father Abraham and half Egyptian. They trace their origin to the twelve tribes of Ishmael in Genesis. There has been endless trouble between them and their half brothers with a lot more ahead, I'm afraid. And it all began because Abraham and Sarai couldn't wait.”
“Don't get on me," said Jim, "you have no idea how hard I've tried. I'm still trying. I honestly don't know what to do, hell, I can't even quit smoking.”
“The only answer I know of, Jim, is for you to ask God to give you patience. You could just say this:
“Heavenly Father, I don't know what to do, I can't control myself. There must be something wrong with me. If there is, only you can fix it. I need to learn to wait for the good things you have promised me. Will you do this for me, Father. You are my only hope. I ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”
“When you have said this prayer you will need to wait for God to grant it. He may give you little victories day by day until His will is complete in your life.”
“I get it,” Jim said, “I have to be patient about being patient”.