When I was probably about eight years old, I went to the grocery store with my mom – not realizing that the events of that day would become a story I’d carry with me for 36 years.
I remember fairly vividly standing in the check-out line holding a little purse and eyeing the candy bars as my mom was paying for her items. I also remember wanting one of these candy bars very badly but not asking my mom if she would buy me one.
Later that same evening I was in my bedroom and discovered a Reese’s in my purse. I can still feel the panic that went through me as I realized that I must have slipped the chocolate treasure into my purse as mom was paying.
For the rest of the night and actually on into weeks, I lived in fear when the telephone would ring. “What if someone at the grocery store saw me? What if the police have been notified?”
My guilt overpowered me and eating the Reese’s was something I couldn’t bring myself to do, but I knew I had to get rid of the evidence. At the time we had a huge blue tick hound that would eat ANYTHING, so one afternoon while everyone was busy, I took the candy bar (wrapper and all) and fed it to the dog. It never even crossed my mind that she might get sick from the chocolate or the wrapper. I was so determined to hide my sin that I didn’t realize I could have been multiplying my problems as our dog gulped down my crime. At that moment in my little 8-year old mind, I just knew the Reese’s had to disappear.
I kept this secret for eight long years. Finally, when I was 16, my mom was giving me a perm (remember those days?), and I felt that the time had finally arrived to confess. With so much time between my “robbery” and my confession, the story was much easier to tell, but I have to admit that the relief from confessing still felt as good as I think it would have felt had I shared my secret years before.
I use that story now when talking to children about honesty, and I’d say that just about every child in our youth group knows that Miss Tammy was a thief at the age of only 8.
Last week Tim preached in chapel at KCU. The college is doing a sermon series on The Ten Commandments, and Tim was given the commandment, “Do Not Steal.” He asked if it was okay to share my story, which of course at this point is no longer a secret, so I said “yes.”
Wednesday of this week, I was running a bunch of errands and my friend, Topsy, was with me for part of them. When I picked her up, I had a diet coke in my cup holder and she asked if we could run get her one before we headed out to dig through a storage closest for table decorations for the Junior/Senior Banquet. Topsy had never checked her balance on her Speedy rewards card, so we went in the store after buying her drink so I could show her how to do it. While in the store, our friend Donna called Topsy about the date of an upcoming wedding shower for Donna’s son and future daughter-in-law. She was on the phone as we left the store and got into the car.
As I was walking to the door of my car, I reached into my purse to get out my keys and in the midst of my wallet, calendar, and notebook, I saw none other than the Reese’s bar shown above. My heart froze. I felt as if I had been taken back in time, because I KNEW I did not put this candy bar in my purse. Topsy was talking away on the phone as I sat there thinking, “Do I say something? Do I walk back in and say that the candy bar must have somehow fallen into my purse?”
I even found myself looking into my mirror to see if an employee was following me out to confiscate the Reese’s. I sat and waited for Topsy to get off the phone then just looked at her and said, “I’ve got the craziest question. Did you buy this in the store and put it in my purse because I do not know how it got in here?”
Topsy began to laugh, because she could tell I was truly rattled and then told me that she had bought the candy bar several days before, after hearing Tim’s sermon, and had slipped it in my purse BEFORE we even went in to check her card.
She really pulled off a perfect prank, because I was reliving every moment in the gas station trying to figure out how this had happened.
I’m just amazed at how God continues to use this one little experience from my childhood to bring opportunities for so many teachable moments and now moments of laughter.
No, I wasn’t caught in the act when I was 8. And for years my guilt kept me quiet.
But thankfully, I eventually came clean and now God is able to use this story to help others.
Maybe you’ve never been in “caught in the act” either, so my question for you is this,
“What are you hiding that God could somehow use to help others?”
There is freedom in confession.
1 John 1:8-10
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Praying for all of you today,