Mom was away, and I was in charge. My three younger brothers and my sister were running around acting goofy. I wanted to watch TV. Yanking and pushing the TV cart across the uneven floor, I hit a bump, and over the TV went. CRASH! Everyone ran to see what had happened.
"You're in trouble now!" my brother said.
I gulped. What a mess!
"Um, Mom," I began when Mom got home, "um, Glenn tugged on the TV and pulled it over."
Glenn was the youngest of us, and really just a baby. He wouldn't get in trouble - he was too little even to know he'd been blamed.
"Oh, really?" my mom said, "Gee, you'd think it would be too heavy for that to happen."
I'd been expecting an explosion. A few fireworks. Some shouting about "That was a new TV!" But all Mom said was, "Well, these things can happen. The TV probably was too heavy for that cart anyway."
That really made me feel bad. Mom was big on telling the truth, and I realized that, as bad as the broken TV was, it was worse to lie about how it had happened and to blame it on someone else.
A few days later, Mom and I were in the kitchen when she looked me in the eye and asked if I had been telling the truth about the TV. In my head I was saying to myself, "Tell her, tell her!" But I didn't. I couldn't. Instead I said, "Oh, yes. Glenn pushed it, and it fell."
She gave me a long mom-look and said, "You know, your brothers said you were moving it, and it tipped over."
I felt caught. But I still couldn't tell her. It was as though my lie was a sort of prison I couldn't get out of.
Night after night I thought about ways to tell my mom the truth. I would dream that I'd told her the truth. But every morning I woke up and remembered that the lie was still as big as ever. And each day that went by only made me feel worse.
I remembered a Bible story about a man named Peter, who followed Jesus and was his disciple (see Luke 22:54-62). That means Jesus was his teacher and friend. One time, Peter promised Jesus he would never deny knowing him, no matter what. But when Jesus was arrested, people accused Peter of being one of Jesus' followers. And because he was scared of what might happen if he told the truth, Peter said that he didn't know Jesus. Not just once, but three times!
I knew just how Peter felt - afraid. Afraid of the truth. Afraid of the lie. Boy, did I feel sorry for Peter. Boy, did I feel sorry for me.
One night, rather than just dreaming about telling the truth, I decided to pray. I prayed, "God, I want to remember I am Your child." God felt far away, with no connection, like a telephone that wasn't working. But I knew God never hangs up on His children, never turns His back on them. God just loves. And I wanted to feel Him loving me.
I think it was God's love that finally gave me the courage to tell my mom the truth. The really weird part was that she already knew! And she wasn't mad. She said, "Wendy, there will be lots of times when you've done something you aren't proud of, but when you admit it to yourself and others, you learn from it and go on to be a stronger person."
Lying had looked like a way to get out of trouble, but it ended up making me feel terrible. I wonder if Peter felt that way, too. Not worthy. Ashamed inside himself. When Peter eventually saw Jesus again, Jesus asked Peter - three times - if he loved him. And now, three times Peter told Jesus, "You know that I love you!" (see John 21:15-17). Each time, Jesus answered Peter by telling him to feed his lambs - to feed the sheep of his pasture. That was another way of asking Peter to have the honesty and courage to carry on the work Jesus had begun. And Peter did just that, without being afraid to tell people he was one of Jesus' followers.
Even after the TV trouble, I was still sometimes tempted to lie. Who wants to admit a mistake? But now, when I pray to God and tell Him I did something wrong, I'm not afraid to say, "Help me correct this mistake so that I can learn from it and do better next time." And you know what? I never feel small and frightened when I tell the truth. I know that in God's eyes, I'm always His child. And that sure feels great!
(First published in the Christian Science Sentinel.)