When I was 18, I told the most elaborate lie of my life and I did it because I was lazy.
I worked at the meat department of a grocery store where the assistant manager, Harold Johnson (a pseudonym), was known for recruiting meat department employees to stock shelves. That wasn’t my job and I was determined to avoid it.
I darted away anytime I saw Mr. Johnson coming and I actually managed to keep my distance from him for the first few months I worked there. But one day Mr. Johnson finally caught up with me.
I was walking through the stockroom when, from behind me, I heard Mr. Johnson brusquely say, “Josh, come over here.”
I kept walking.
“Josh!” he yelled.
I turned around, looked at him, squinted, pointed to my ear and said, “I’m sorry, my hearing is bad.”
“Oh,” he said, raising his voice, “can you get these boxes off the pallet?”
“I’m sorry, what?” I said. “It’s my hearing. Can you say that again?”
Raising his voice even more loudly and emphasizing each word, Mr. Johnson said, “I need you to get these boxes!”
I looked at him with a sheepish, apologetic expression and pointed to my ear again.
“Don’t worry about it,” he curtly replied.
I walked away snickering to myself, proud that I had fooled Mr. Johnson, and I was not ashamed of myself for it – yet.
For the next month, Mr. Johnson didn’t ask me to do any work for him and every time he saw me, he greeted me in an excessively loud voice. One day, however, he stopped me, pulled me aside, got close to my face and loudly said, “Josh, I’m afraid I hurt your feelings when I yelled at you in the stockroom a few weeks ago and I want to say I’m sorry. I was just trying to make sure you could hear me.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” I replied, wanting to get away, embarrassed by this man who had now been tricked into humbling himself before a liar.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve got a little boy who’s got special needs and sometimes people mistreat him because he’s disabled and I don’t ever want to do that to anyone else. I was so ashamed when I thought about how you must have felt when I hollered. I just want you to know how sorry I am.”
“It’s OK,” I said, my heart dropping. “Please don’t apologize. I’m fine, really.”
I felt sick.
For the next few weeks, guilt weighed heavily on me, especially when Mr. Johnson walked by and loudly said hello; and finally, I could take it no more. One day, I stopped him in the stockroom and admitted that I had faked being deaf and the joke had gotten out of hand.
“I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”
Mr. Johnson crossed his arms and glared at me for a moment.
“I hope you can forgive me,” I said.
He turned around, walked away and we barely spoke again.
I still cringe when I look back on that memory. I didn’t mean to hurt Mr. Johnson like that, to humiliate him. It just happened and I can’t undo it. Maybe you can relate.
Perhaps you didn’t get caught up in a lie like that, but you’ve got your own stuff you’re still ashamed of. You know what I’m talking about.
Those memories creep up on you when you least expect them, reminding you of the guilt, the shame, the feeling that you’ll never live them down. And the truth is, you can’t live it down – not on your own.
There’s only one person who can take awful stories like ours and make happy endings out of them, and He’s the one who went to the cross for all of the things you and I are ashamed of. Those happy endings can only be written when we come before Him, aching with guilt and admit what we’ve done.
Jesus won’t glare at us or cut us off. He’ll accept our apologies and help us move forward. Today, let’s open up to Him and tell Him about those memories that bring us so much shame. We can rest assured that He will remind us that He has already “endured the cross, despising its shame,” so we don’t have to (Hebrews 12:2).