It’s true. I lied.
I did something that I didn’t think was wrong or a big deal, but then I was confronted about it and realized otherwise. Instead of fessing up in the moment, I tried to cover myself. I was embarrassed by my actions, embarrassed I had let someone down, so I sprayed a fog of dishonesty over the entire conversation in order to save face.
Manipulation, dishonesty, a lie of omission– however you want to spin it, the bottom line is I lied. I intentionally deceived a friend.
That was almost three years ago.
Has that ever happened to you?
You did something you knew was wrong, covered it up, and let it fester for years? Every time it randomly comes to mind you feel a pang of guilt, but you shove it down and dismiss it. After all, you’re forgiven. Jesus died for that sin. You confess it to Him and move on, but somehow you never feel totally free of guilt.
That was me.
Of course I have sinned many, many times since that lie three years ago– but something about that particular sin wouldn’t let me go. Or rather, I couldn’t let it go.
A mature Christian, someone who has followed Jesus almost her entire life, someone who’s read the entire Bible, someone who writes a public blog about the Christian life, shouldn’t lie. Lying is something toddlers do. When caught red handed, children lie. Not full grown Christian adults.
It was shameful. I was completely and utterly bewildered by my gut reaction to lie. That’s not who I was. I wasn’t a liar. That’s not who Christ had redeemed me to be, nor who He calls me to be. I knew better, I generally behaved better, what on earth happened.
A couple years ago, a man who I deeply respect told a story about how he stole some cash from a store register where he worked as a teen. With tears streaming down his face, he told the church of his deep conviction to confess his sin to the store owner. So, as a full grown, fifty-something year old man, he traveled home to visit an elderly woman, confess his theft from decades ago and repay her for the stolen cash. The entire church wept.
What was it about that sin? Why after so many years, did he still feel guilty and still feel compelled to confess to the store owner and ask for forgiveness?
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I can’t go into detail because this post would be a novel, but trust me when I saw God moved heaven and earth to bring me to my face for my lie from three years ago. I had a knot in my stomach I couldn’t resolve and believe me when I say I tried to rationalize it and God’s Spirit away.
I was not going to confess my sin to that friend.
Jesus had already paid for it. I was already forgiven. It was going to be so incredibly embarrassing to fess up for a lie I told three years ago. I refused to do it.
But then I remembered that story from church. I didn’t want to be fifty-five years old, still feeling guilt for a lie I told when I was in my twenties. And even though I knew I was forgiven, I also knew I wasn’t free from guilt.
The Bible makes it pretty clear that while Jesus is the only one who can forgive us from our sins, there is great benefit to confessing our sins to one another.
“Confess your sins to one another … that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there…and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
As John Piper says, “there is a healing that comes at the horizontal level as well as the vertical when we confess our sins to one another.”
So I left all of my pride at the door and dragged my reluctant self to confess to my friend. It was heart-pounding, nerve-wracking, and embarrassing. And while I’m still a little embarrassed, I finally feel free.
But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Full freedom comes by walking in the light. We like to hid our sin in darkness, but the only way out is to step into the light–fully exposed, but then fully free.
My guess is that if you’re still with me and still reading– God’s Spirit is tugging at your heart for something you know you need to confess to a friend. Believe me when I say I know the discomfort you’re feeling.
But let me leave you with the gracious words that my friend wrote in response to my confession:
We all do things at times that aren’t the best choice, the Christlike choice– sometimes on purpose, sometimes inadvertently. The key is to find the humility to apologize, the grace to choose more wisely next time, the confidence that one moment doesn’t define who you are, and the gratitude that Jesus loves us and refines us.
Jesus has already given you all that you need– the humility, grace, confidence, and gratitude. Step into the light. Trust me. The only regret you’ll have is if refuse to do it.