You would think that cleaning out a shed would be pretty dull. But lurking in ours was a dark and dastardly family secret…
A few year ago, while helping to clean out my grandparents’ garage, I came across a few dozen plastic milk crates being used as stackable storage boxes. Over lunch, I casually asked my grandmother where my grandfather might have collected them from. My grandmother looked thoughtful, then paled, and then a shocked expression stole across her face. She let out a breathless “Oh, my goodness!!”
Over the next hour she related a crime so shocking, so disturbing, so heinous, that Netflix might refuse to do a series on it… so I’ll have to tell you the story instead.
During the 1980’s, when the world was young and unspoiled, life was simple in the sleepy township of Bundeena, a community far enough south of Sydney to avoid both hustle and bustle.
That is until THE SCANDAL broke.
News spread across back fences and through the community that someone, in the middle of the night, was stealing milk crates from the local corner shop. Each evening, three or four crates – normally used to deliver milk to the homes of local townspeople – were being stolen in audacious night-time raids.
Many thought the innocence of the town was also being stolen by this shocking crime.
As always, the youth were blamed. Police were notified, and the little grocery store organised a safer way to return the empty milk-crates.
Over the years the township of Bundeena tried to move on – but many in the community pointed to this incident as the first time people started locking their homes at night!
Little did they know that in their midst was a seventy-year-old man – my grandfather – harbouring a secret stash of stolen milk-crates. In fact, it was about forty of these “secrets”, and they were storing fishing line, old tennis balls, and gardening tools.
Finally, “The Great Bundeena Milk Crate Heist” was no longer a mystery. My very own grand-father was the culprit. I felt like I was Sherlock Holmes as I pieced together the crime over lunch with my grandmother.
But what was I to do now? What would we do with the family shame stored in all those crates? My grandmother made a tough moral decision. She decided to make me take them all back.
“Because it’s the right thing to do”, she said – “We need to make things right!”
The way I saw it I had two options:- one option was to front up to the shop and try to explain the actions of my grandfather fifteen years previously… and explain that my grandmother now wanted all the crates returned.
The other alternative was to take them back in the middle of the night – like a coward – hoping no-one would see me.
So at midnight that night, I dropped forty stolen milk-crates by the door of the shop and hurried home.
As I lay in bed late that night I imagined the look on the store owner’s face when he arrived for work the next day – and found milk crates not seen for almost two decades. That’s a long time to keep milk, even in the fridge!
But at least, as my Nan had put it, ‘a wrong was made right.’
Do you feel like your life needs a clean out? Or, like my grandparents’ shed, are you storing some secret sin or mistake? And does that stored guilt need to be made right if possible – even if it takes an awkward apology, some kind of restitution, or even just one more attempt to re-start a broken relationship?
God Himself wants to make right this world – even though He didn’t cause the breakdown. Day by day He is working towards a new world, a world without selfishness, greed, arrogance, broken families, hurting children, the loss of loved ones to sickness and death.
That’s why He came as a baby 2,000 years ago.
He came to reset the world. To make things right. And God also wants to make things right with you personally.
So… do you have any metaphorical milk-crates you’d like to give back to Him? It feels great when you do. Just ask my grandmother.
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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.
Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read the inspiring story of how one soldier’s sacrifice changed an entire prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.