I’m a really slow eater, and I’ve always been that way. Especially when I don’t like whatever food I’m eating. From about age 5 to 10, I would often be the last person at the table; the rest of my family would rinse their dishes and then go do something else. Sometimes my mom would stay with me, but usually there was something else she needed to do. This didn’t really bother me—it often worked to my advantage.
One night, we were eating lemon chicken, and I thought it was the grossest thing my parents could have possibly fed me. I knew that if I poked at it for long enough, they would all leave and eventually one of my parents would come back and say “well, at least you tried it” and my dad would finish it for me. That night, however, there was something riding on that lemon chicken. My dad bought chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Fields that day, and I was only allowed to eat one if I ate all of my chicken. In all fairness, my parents probably gave me the smallest piece of chicken they could to still make sure I was getting enough protein. However, the chicken seemed like an insurmountable obstacle at the time.
So, being the devious 6-ish year old I was, I waited until everyone had left the table, wrapped the chicken in a paper towel, and plopped it in the trashcan to hide the evidence of my crime. Soon after—just like every night we ate something I didn’t like—my dad came to check on me. Now I’d have to ask my dad about this, because I’m not sure if he somehow saw what I’d done from the other room, knew I might try something like this, or if I was nervously glancing in the trashcan’s direction, but he knew what I had done. He asked me I’d eaten my chicken, and I said I had, likely almost in tears at this point from the guilt. I’ve never liked lying, especially to my parents.
Yet I had attempted to deceive them because I really wanted a cookie. I’m still not quite sure why, but I remember my dad laughing a little bit at this point. I was so scared of being punished that the cookie no longer mattered nearly as much as the prospect of getting in trouble. Then, my dad surprised me. He gave me a cookie anyway, even though I’d lied and tried to hide what I had done. Yes, he was disappointed and I was strongly advised to not do it again, but he didn’t hold it against me. I tell you all this not simply just to make your laugh, though this is humorous—there’s a deeper message.
I see this as comparable to God’s grace. Sometimes, there’s something going on in our lives that we’d rather not confront. This could be a temptation, resentment towards someone, or a lifestyle you’re living. Instead of speaking about it with a mentor or bringing before God so He can help us metaphorically cut it up and teach us how to overcome it a piece at a time, we like to hide things. We wrap them up and put them in the trash so we can pretend there’s nothing wrong in our lives. Unfortunately, pretending a fire isn’t burning doesn’t make it go out. As much as I wanted to believe the chicken had disappeared and that I deserved the cookie, it was still there. It had to put out in the open in order for my dad to teach me a lesson from it and for me to move past it.
I am by no means trying to stay that my chicken sin is anywhere as painful to uncover as some of the things others, including those who are reading this, are dealing with. I know that many sins are buried so deep under metaphorical paper towels that it may seem impossible to dredge them up. But look to my dad’s reaction as an indication of how the Father will respond. Yes, we’ve messed up and the Lord won’t be overjoyed about it, but that does not mean He loves us any less! Remember, “the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8).
We try to deceive ourselves, others, and God because we want to appear like we have it all together from the outside. I wanted to deserve that cookie as much as my siblings who ate their chicken did. Often we are afraid we won’t be worthy of Christ’s love anymore if we are open about our struggles. In reality, no one is worthy of God’s love! I’m sure my siblings didn’t think I should be allowed to have a cookie since I didn’t finish my chicken. In the same way, we can be quick to judge our brothers and sisters for their sins. We too often forget that “all have sinned at fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Grace is not based on how many mistakes we make but rather how many times we fall at the feet of Jesus, truly penitent, and recognize that we are in need of His forgiveness. I firmly believe that His grace is available to all who seek it.
I think that my dad may have laughed at me because of how foolish I was to think that he wouldn’t realize what I had done. If God laughs at us, it’s never out of malicious intent but lightheartedly because we thought we would be able to hide something from an omniscient God who knit us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139). God loves all of His children, no matter how often we disobey him and get caught up in sin. Like David did, we are invited to come before God and pray “create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (Psalm 5:10-12).
Lastly, we are called to be in community with one another and bear each other’s burdens. I believe that no one is too “spiritually mature” to seek out a mentor who will hold him/her accountable and walk alongside him/her through life. I know this metaphor doesn’t match up perfectly, but I hope it helps you to see the magnitude of God’s grace and the value in bringing your sins before Him to ask for forgiveness.