My eldest. Ah, the sweet first born. The most remarkable big sister.
Until that day.
I picked her up from school and she ran to me. She rarely runs to me these days. She is an elderly seven after all. And running to her mother is sometimes considered undignified when one is seven. She ran to me and gave me a big squeeze right around my middle and buried her face in me and I held that girl tight.
"Mama, I ate all my lunch today."
"Oh you did. Good job, bean."
For the last little bit, this first born hasn't been eating her lunch and then brings it home, which I suppose is so much better than throwing it away, but the principle is still the same: She's not eating her lunch. Well, she's eating the cookie and the chips, but the fruit and the sandwich...yeah, that's for the birds.
So my mom radar was going beserk when she instigated it. I saw in a flash where this was going to end. And I grimaced inside a little in sad trepidation.
"I ate it all," she said. Proudly.
I calmly took her backpack as I opened up the car for her. "Well, how about if I check right now? Just to make sure you ate all your lunch." You can't tell a lie once and still expect unadulterated trust. A hard lesson for a small person. Or a big person.
Fear. That's the only word that I can use to describe how her eyes got big with panic and how she started to backpedal and flounder the way only a seven year old can.
"I did eat it all. I promise. You don't have to check right now. You could check when we get home?"
Oh sweet baby girl. Don't you know that lying breaks a little bit of your soul? Don't you know that lying builds walls and moats and fortresses out of flimsy little cards? Don't you know that lying never gets you where you thought you wanted to go? It takes you somewhere dark and frightening and grown-up and that's not where a seven year old belongs. Don't you know the weight of carrying a lie is so heavy and drags us from Jesus?
"No, I'm going to have to check it right now." I say it gently. Regretfully.
I unzip her backpack and take out her lunch box. She's trembling and her eyes are round saucers in a pale little face. I open her lunch box and her entire sandwich sits there, taunting, teasing, teaching. And inside, my flesh wants to flail a lying little girl. And I want to rant and rail because she defied me. In a strange twist, I found my pride to be a bit wounded because my own daughter dared to lie, dared to instigate the lie, dared to perpetuate the lie, thinking that I would not catch it. Who does she think she is anyway?
And I had to stop and breathe. And again. Breathe. Because this couldn't be about me. Wasn't about me. About my wounded mama's pride or my tattered mama's heart. I had only to decide on how I would respond, what would be my choice. Because I knew this was going to happen. I saw it early. Almost like Jesus knew and He was just getting me ready.
"You lied to me. You know there are big consequences for lying. And you didn't eat your lunch. There are other consequences for that." I say this so calmly, so softly. Because I know that her spirit needs to hear the words more than her ears. Her heart needs to let these seep in deep and wide first before her smart little brain can maneuver out of it.
She gets in the car. I get in the car and look at her in the rearview mirror.
"Mama, what are my consequences?" Her voice is small, her eyes won't meet mine. It's sad, really, that soft words brought her low and shamed. And I pity her a small piece. Very small.
"I don't know. I have to talk to your dad first."
Tears now. A torrent. "I don't want you to tell daddy."
And here's the kicker, we never want our Daddy to see our shame, our mistakes, our wrecks. We never run to the Father with our foibles and faults, bragging. We never outright say, "Yeah, I lied." No, we rationalize and justify and try to finagle, even with our Father. And our souls right crack down the middle when we do that. Because really, who do we think we are? Like He's not gonna know?
And in the middle of our unrighteous tirade, the Father's heart says gently, "Stop. Just. Stop." Because we do the same thing. Don't we perpetuate and instigate and carry on, even as we have full knowledge of the mistake we are making? And He knows this and tries to get our attention. And we just. keep. going. Until we fall sheer off the ledge and end up in some mud and miry pit of our own making.
"I have to tell daddy sweetheart. I don't keep secrets from your dad and I can't make this kind of decision on my own. We are a team."
Her head dips below the seat and she cries. I'm sure she's sorry. But sorry doesn't really matter until it's remorse. Sorry doesn't really matter because it's just a word. Sorry doesn't really count unless the heart gets involved. Because there's no change unless the heart hurts.
I'd like to tell you that her consequences were enough to make her think twice before telling another lie.
I'd like to tell you that her lunch is gone every day.
I'd like to tell you that we have conquered this mountain. Forever.
And I can't. Because ironically, I'd be lying.
Because she lied this weekend. And not just once. And my response was not as graceful or as dignified as it should have been. I may have lost my temper. Sigh.
Lying is part of the human condition. We want to avoid pain and punishment, but in trying to avoid those things we actually create more pain and more punishment. We traverse a steep and slippery slope when we choose a lie over a truth.
And that's the crux. It's a choice. To choose to utter a lie or to utter a truth. There's one or the other. Here, there's no middle ground or almost truths or not quite lies. It's black and white.
And it doesn't matter if you're 7 or 77, the results are the same. A harsh descent. A bitter reality. Cantankerous consequences. A soul splintered. Trust tainted. Relationships rocked.
It's a bit humbling when your own offspring throws the lunch you made to the wolves. It's a bit humbling when your own offspring tells tall tales and white lies and oh, how quickly those little white lies turn into unmanageable plot twists and giant ships incapable of being navigated because they have minds of their own. Those are treacherous waters for a meager 7 year old.
I know it might seem a bit like I'm overreacting. But what happens when she's 17 and hasn't got it? What happens when she's 27 and doesn't know? I can't make it stick, that's a job straight for Jesus. But I can make sure she knows. And I can keep piling truth on her heart, truth upon truth upon truth, because when those tall towers of lies crumble fast and low like so many shifty cards, I want her to have the Truth that she can cling to so she won't drown in all the mess. And when her heart cracks right open, all that glorious graceful truth can fall right in.
And at the end of this day, it's a hard mama's-job to let the girl-child choose. And it's a hard mama's-job to gently realign the steering and the direction of the boat and let her try again. And try again and again until she can do it on her own.
Trusting that she'll get it. Trusting that all the truths I can pull from the Word, while they might fall on deaf ears, fall fast on an open heart. Trusting that one day her choices will reflect the truths her heart knows. Trusting that all this knee-praying and grace-seeking will lead us both closer to Jesus.
Grace Always Rises,