Mildly adorable Exhibit A: I remember one Friday going an hour north of Phoenix to visit the “Out of Africa Animal Park.” Mindy, Reese, and I were all at the ticket counter getting our tickets. Since Reese was under three (10 months under three to be exact), she got in free. But her mother and I, as paying customers, received paper wristbands.
Reese did not care about the truth; she wanted a wristband. She wanted it badly and told the ticket-seller so. I told Reese that she didn’t get one because she was two and not yet three years of age. (Now Reese absolutely, positively, definitely knew she was two. I know this because she was telling us so regularly as a way of convincing us she was no longer a baby.)
Nonetheless, at that particular moment in time Reese responded to the situation by telling the ticket seller, “I three. Yes, I three. Yes.”
Had Reese been able to convince the park employee she was three, her lie would have cost us $20. Not that Reese had any concept of money’s value at the time. She had two pennies in her hand a week earlier and asked me to take her to the mall so she could spend them. Still, even if she had known how valuable what twenty dollars was, I think she still would have tried to sell her con to the park employee.
Somewhat Off-Putting Exhibit B: About the same time as the story recounted above, Reese had been standing next to me in the living room. If I had been blind and deaf I still would have known Reese was there. I could smell her. It was a powerful and purely unpleasant sensation. I told Reese it was time to change her diaper. She wanted no part of that and refused.
I changed tactics. I asked her how her diaper was. Reese looked at my shins – not at my face – and said, “Good.” I asked her if her diaper was dirty. She responded, (once again without meeting my eyes), “My diaper good.” Giving up on honest communication, I picked up her squirming, squealing body, took her to the changing table, and did what had to be done.
In being this way Reese proved nothing especially awful. She just demonstrated that she is human like the rest of us.
To change direction abruptly, as Christian I think that the most dangerous thing about building up our skills when it comes to deceit is that it makes us skillful at breaking down real fellowship.
In Genesis God shows up after Adam has sampled the forbidden fruit. God asks, in essence, “How’s things, Adam?” Adam stares at God’s shins and says, “Good.” And we as the readers are saying, “No, Adam, things aren’t good.” And by pursuing his deceit Adam walls himself off from the one who can make things right again.
Around the same time Reese was trying to pull one over on the Animal Park, the global economic world was on full freak-out because of a collapse apparently driven by absurdly reckless investment products built mainly on tricks and lies.
Surely people were in the know before things flew apart publicly. I can imagine an executive being asked before the official onset of the collapse, “What’s the stench I smell from that investment portfolio behind you? Tell me, how are those credit default swaps doing?” Once again there is shin-staring before the response: “Good. My diaper good.” Right.
When deceit is practiced, real community, real trust, and real love are soon being measured for caskets. Ask anyone whose marriage has been torn apart by bent truths. But it isn’t just a wrecking ball for marriages, of course. Ask your congregation. Ask your nation. Ask your heart.
In the gospel of John Jesus famously says, “The truth will set you free.” But it is in that same gospel that Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” For us who call ourselves Christian, truth is not ultimately a dry principle or high ideal. Truth is a person we were made to share the joy of fellowship with. Truth is Jesus.
And by the gospel of John’s reckoning that person is not any old person. That Jesus is the very Word of God through whom all things were created. He is the one who came out from God’s great love to live among us, even if it cost him his life. And he did all this with the goal of sharing with us the overflowing love and unquenchable life of God’s Spirit.
So, to play games with the truth is to strain our fellowship with the Person who is truth. To sacrifice truth for immediate gain is to begin to lay bricks in a wall between ourselves and the God who is life and love and truth. To refuse to answer the door when truth knocks is to flirt with our own destruction.
This is a well-travelled but dangerous path, and not one down which I was happy to see my two-year-old daughter toddle. But, living by her side through the years, I know that the presence of the Way, the Truth, and the Life within her is much more powerful still.
May this be the case for me as well. Oh, heck, why not for your too?