So we hired some people from a Kijiji ad to do some work for us.
Long story short, we got most of the job done but ran into some performance issues as things progressed. The moral of the story? Well, it’s not about hiring contractors from Kijji but it is a reminder of a biblical truth about people. About us.
In spite of our need to confront them about their work, I nevertheless liked all the guys and got to know each of them a little bit. There was an assortment of young labourers who were lean, brash, full of energy, and also two ‘older guys’ who were knowledgeable but arthritic and tortoise-like as they worked. They were nice people and they all loved to talk so we got along quite well.
We were blue-collar brothers.
Yet in another sense we were from very different worlds: ‘colourful’ language flowed freely; some of them had lost their driver’s licenses; they lived on energy drinks and cigarettes; there were probably some addiction issues; strippers knew them well. They were good with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but they rarely cleaned up after themselves. Blaming others was a common strategy and exaggeration, half-truths, or downright lies were their language of business.
Their formal education was a high school diploma or less and their informal education was self-taught survival. Some of them had diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, learning challenges, and obvious emotional insecurities. Some of them were unemployable because of driving offences or other legal issues.
I noticed that practically none of them spoke of wives or mothers. A couple of them admitted that they were searching for a relationship but couldn’t meet anyone. One had a new baby girl, another spoke glowingly about his two year old daughter and showed me her picture. She was beautiful.
In their own way, each was open about themselves. Very little was hidden about their personal lives because it didn’t seem to occur to them there was anything that needed hiding.
And I was reminded that, in a basic human way, I was very much like them – I was no differently motivated or equipped. I had simply been born into a loving family with the accompanying access to healthy friendships, education, life-skills, opportunities. I had a hopeful life and meaningful faith because they had been modeled for me.
On the other hand I also had expectations to fulfil, morals to defend, goodness to protect. I see it often – religious people doing mental gymnastics to justify what they believe.
In Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ death, we read that he was crucified between two ‘thieves’. One would come to be known as the good thief and has traditionally been named Dismas, the other one known as Gestas.
The two thieves have been used for centuries as a contrast between those who are saved (christian) and those who are lost (not christian) but I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. Both had committed serious offences; both about to die horrible deaths; both hanging beside the Son of God.
We know nothing more about the thieves than a few recorded words. We know nothing about their personalities, disabilities, hurts, experiences, education, traditions, training, faith, or home lives. All we know is that they were at rock-bottom and still one was repentant while the other one was not.
How do we explain their opposing attitudes even as they were hanging, dying? Don’t try to tell me their choices were predetermined – that doesn’t fit with anything I know. On the other hand don’t try to tell me they had full choice either – sometimes choice is outside of our ability.
But I am reminded that rock-bottom isn’t just about our physical circumstances but rock-bottom is about our honesty. We religious types have all kinds of stuff that we justify and defend but Jesus showed us that he embraces the openness and honesty of ‘sinners’. And maybe that is the point: repentance and goodness are always easiest for those who have nothing to protect or defend.
Maybe the good thief was the one hanging there with nothing to hide or protect. Just a sinner; just a “Remember me”.
And maybe the unrepentant thief was hanging there still clutching his pride, his opinions, his self-justification.
And I think: If this happened today, would I be the good thief or would a Kijiji contractor be the good thief?
We ended our relationship with the guys on a fairly positive note. I think I owe them each a coffee for the good reminder of who I am and how I should be. And I am humbled to realize that God sees my heart with the same clarity that he sees theirs.