We can learn from the mistakes that other people make. And what happens when you yourself don't do what's right is something you rarely forget. Let me give you an example.
I had just turned 16 and finally had my driver's license. I couldn't wait to drive my parents' car by myself. I got their OK to go see my friend Sandy across town - and to go "nowhere else." I said I'd be back in time for dinner.
But Sandy had just left the day before, to be a camp counselor up in the mountains not too far away.
I wrestled back and forth with thoughts of driving to see her, although my mom had clearly told me not to go anywhere but to Sandy's house. But what could it hurt, I decided, if I still got back in time for dinner? Nobody would ever know. (Big mistake!)
Before I go any further, let me tell you that I knew (in my heart) that it was wrong to betray my parents' trust in me. God was clearly telling me to do the right thing. The truthful thing. God is Truth itself. But I didn't listen. God is always guiding us all to do what is right, but it is up to each of us to obey. I didn't follow God's guidance that day. I drove into the mountains. And that's when the trouble started.
The camp was really much farther away than I had thought. Not having a watch, I lost track of the time. When I finally got there, I saw my friend with a group of campers. She came over to the fence to see me, but told me she had to take the kids back to the main camp or she'd get in trouble. So I never even got to show her the car.
By then it was getting dark. I started to drive home. Guess what happened? I got a flat tire. By the time someone passed by who promised to call my folks, it was darker. At 2 a.m. they finally arrived to help me. No one was happy, I can tell you.
They had really been worried. I felt awful. And I can assure you I was not allowed to drive for a long, long time. The whole thing was a big bust.
At Sunday School, one of the things I had learned (and now was going to pay much more attention to!) was something on Page 453 in "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," a book by Mary Baker Eddy based on the teachings of Christ Jesus. It was this: "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine [God's] help." I guess that might explain why I had so much trouble getting help with the flat. I had forfeited my receptivity to God's help by thinking I could have fun and at the same time be dishonest. I had given up my freedom. There were lessons to be learned.
I had also been ignoring one of the Ten Commandments that I knew from reading the Bible. The Commandments were given by God to a man named Moses. They were to be written in stone so the people would have laws to keep them safe and make them happy. The commandment I'm thinking of says, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Ex. 20:12). I could see that I had not been honoring what I had told my parents I would do. (And my driving days that summer were over.)
Looking back, I can see that the right decision had really been a simple one. Was I going to be honest or devious and disobedient? Here's the thing: being honest always makes you feel good. I believe that when you're dishonest, you usually know you're going to have to hide from the truth, and that usually makes for a very uncomfortable feeling - if you're upfront with yourself.
Maybe if I'd gone home and asked my mom, she would have taken me up to the camp, or we would have gone at a better time. Then I would have still been allowed to drive that summer, and I would have had a lot more fun.
That short drive up into the mountains cost me some short-term freedom. But in the long run, it taught me that being really free is always tied in with following God's rules.
honest in the sight
of all men.