Friday, May 18, 2007

Do you think the person others think you are is who you really are?

In the late eighties and most of the nineties I operated a wholesale greenhouse, that employed developmentally disabled adults. On my staff, were a half dozen college grads who filled various roles from "grower" to "supervisor" to "sales and marketing." In addition, there were 25 adults most of whom were mentally retarded.

Working with them was enriching. There view of life was lived out each day. Most were glad to be there, and liked interacting with others. Strong relationships formed between many of them. I still get Christmas cards each year from one of the ladies.

Being a greenhouse, our products were seasonal. We sold poinsettias at Christmas, bedding plants in spring, mums in the fall, and filler crops in between each season. It was a beautiful site when things were in full bloom.

We had need seasonally for additional help. One of our needs was delivery drivers. The greenhouses would go from full to empty in a matter of three weeks. To accomplish this, I would hire temps through our companies personnel department.

One year during the height of our busiest season, I was called and rather cryptically told to come over to the administrative offices. I asked questions as it was extremely inconvenient, but was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to get there right away.

To get there, I had to walk to a different building on campus. I had to cross a park area where many ate at lunch, and then a parking lot, to get to where I had been summoned.

I had been out of school for eight years, but felt like I was reporting to the Principal's office. What had I done? Why was it coming to light right in the thick of my busiest shipping season? I was annoyed.

I walked into the office of our Chief Financial Officer, and found a room full of people. In addition to the CFO, and the Personnel Manager were two people I did not recognize. My mind raced furiously from possibility to possibility. I had no clue.

I was introduced to the two visitors. They were police detectives.

I didn't have any unpaid parking tickets, I was not involved in any illegal operations, what on earth had I done?

They saw the curiosity laden fear in my eyes, and quickly explained.

They were on a manhunt. They believed that one of my temporary delivery drivers was wanted for murder in New York. "Wanted for murder in New York?" Did they just say that? This was Indiana!

"You mean the same man who is out with three of my employees right now?" I asked. They showed me a picture and we talked about names. He was going by an alias. From the picture I knew he had three of my developmentally disabled adults in the truck with him. I was sick. What was going to happen?

I did not have to wonder long. They began to tell me what I was going to do. I did not have a choice. I had to do this as the lives of the rest of those in my charge were at stake.

I went back to the greenhouse and gathered my staff. I told them what was happening, and locked down the building. My employees knew something was up, but they were cooperative without questions.

I stood for what seemed like hours at the front door waiting for the truck's return. I had much I needed to be doing, but right now it all had to wait. My staff kept the other employees deep in the greenhouse. The only people up front were my secretary and me...waiting.

How was I going to be convincing? He was a murderer. He was suspicious. He would be expecting trouble at some point. If I inadvertently tipped him off, would he take hostages? Was he carrying a gun? How in the world did he not get "screened" by the temp agency we used? They were not getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Finally, the big box truck came around the corner. I stood and waited until it backed up, then I hurried out to them.

I forced small talk and gave my employees specific direction. (Please God let them follow it with no questions or discussion). They cleared the truck and headed to the greenhouse, where my secretary waited to let them in. Then she locked us out.

It was just the two of us. I was so incredibly nervous. I knew he was going to suspect something. No way I was going to pull this off.

I told him, "Go ahead and give me the invoices, and then head over to personnel, you forgot to fill part of the paperwork out."

He was nervous.

"I need to do what?" he asked.

"You need to go to personnel and fill out some paperwork. You don't get paid, they told me, if you don't come fill it out." (no way he was buying this). "Leave the truck here so I can reload it, and head on over."

He looked me square in the eye. He did not seem to believe me. I didn't believe me either. I am such a bad liar. Now I was going to pay.

Suddenly, he stepped down out of the truck, looked at me again, then turned and headed off.

My legs were rubber. There were about 30 steps to that locked door. I didn't think I could make it. I was going to fall down right here in front of the building.

I walked as with legs of molasses toward safety. My secretary waited to the last minute, then let me in. Panic was on her face as she grabbed me and pulled me into the building.

From our vantage point we waited and watched him cross, first the park, then into the parking lot.

After about 20 steps into the parking lot (around 75 yards away from us) much screaming and movement commenced. I was startled even that far away.

This event was before the "bad boys, bad boys" tv reality shows.

Around twenty police officers from at least 6 different departments converged on him with weapons drawn and verbal assaults with instruction. They had made a 360 degree perimeter around him. They had him on his face and in cuffs in no time.

My heart took forever to slow back down. We watched in disbelief as he was taken into custody.

He had quite easily moved into a midwestern city and passed himself off as someone he wasn't. We all bought it. We trusted him with precious lives as we had been given no reason to fear.

This is often how the enemy prowls. He is good at his job.

We have to be prepared!

I have heard from many students in the last year or two about struggles they are having. They come across as people they are not. They are involved in things believers should not be. Clearly they are under conviction and want to stop living a lie. They want to be who the Lord wants them to be.

So do I.

Father, I pray your conviction falls on each one of us who are living contrary to your Word and will. Help us to surrender completely those areas of our lives we hold captive. Let us by Your strength, stop putting on false pretenses, and live for you alone.

We need to stop justifying our personal sin, surrender, and live for Jesus.