But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
This is a really hard post to write.
But I realize that I'm not the only thief in town, and that maybe some good will come out of writing this. The truth is that about a year ago, while in prayer, God showed me a number of people I had wronged. In some cases, I had flat out stolen from a few people.
An old employer, the boyfriend of a friends roommate in college, a neighbor, a random person in school.
In most of my past I would have justified it our sugar coated that fact in some way. I would have told you that I was wronged and this was taking restitution. Or that I was drunk and didn't know what I was doing. Or that I didn't actually take it, that it was a friend who did it and I was just there.
Well, God laid it on me heavy, and I started to squirm right there in prayer.
"Oh God, what can I do?"
It was clear right away what I had to do, I had to confess and ask forgiveness. And I had to pay for what I had done.
I listed the people God had brought to mind on a post-it note. I hid the note, it was such a shameful piece of paper. I didn't have the money to cough up so I did nothing. It stewed in my conscious. Eventually, I relented, there would never be a good time, I would pay the cost no matter what.
I had to research to find the people I had offended, the victims. It wasn't easy, but once I did, I prayed again, "Lord, let their hearts be tender to receive my sincere apology. Please." I offered to repay whatever was due, let me know the cost. I wrote to a couple on the list, then I anxiously awaited for days. What would happen?
As it turns out, so far, nothing. I literally have not received a single response. One person seems just about impossible to track down short of hiring an investigator. I have resolved that I cannot become stalkerish over something that happened 10 and 20 years ago. And if I get a response or anything else I can act on, any claim of restitution, I will gladly pay it as much as is required, because even though its hard its what I was called to do.
The God of the Bible calls us to repent of our sins. Zacchaeus-like repentance doesn't mean just saying I'm sorry to God. Or even to your mentor. It means making every effort to pay for the wrongs you have made, and to set up systems to ensure you never do it again.
In my case, I had long ago abandoned the lifestyle that led to these actions and just addressing them head-on again after all this time gave a sense of healing. Though, I do hold out hope that I will be able to pay out to each person that which is due, because I know God works in repentance.