Stop in the Name of the Law

Dear Lindsey,

“Gasp!”

Ok, now that you got that out of the way, I can share the story that made you do it.

As we continue this series on symptoms of pride/ego, I can go back a few decades to high school again. Unfortunately, I can probably think of more recent examples, but my pride couldn’t handle sharing those 🙂 ; it’s easier to think it was only a problem of my youth.

Next symptom: Thinking I am above the law.

My high school’s shop teacher, a former Army Colonel, was my neighbor and he had a cute little poodle, “Cocoa.” For easy cash, I often took care of Cocoa when its owners were out of town. Rather than walking down the block to my house when he returned from his trip, “the Colonel” (as we students called him) chose to pay me when he saw me in the school cafeteria on the Monday after my pet-sitting.

This led to many jokes of which the Colonel was unaware:

He would approach my lunch table full of teens of both genders, hand me money and say, “Thanks for last night.” Or: “This is for the weekend.”

As he left, snickers would fill our table. Soon, they would see him coming and get silent to see what words he would use when he handed me cash:  “Here he comes to pay Terri for her ‘services.’ Be quiet!”

I never mentioned the torture to him, but I cringed each time he approached.

One weekend the Colonel had asked me to pet-sit, but after accepting the job, I realized I had a commitment to go somewhere with my family for the weekend. I forgot to tell the Colonel that I was unable to keep poor little Cocoa. I didn’t remember until Monday morning when the Colonel approached my lunch table.

The table hushed in anticipation of his words.

“Thanks for the weekend,” he said as he slid a ten-dollar bill into my hand in front of my friends.

I gulped.

I must have forgotten to tell him I couldn’t take care of his dog.

My heart raced, but my ego ignored the urge. “You’re welcome,” I said and took the cash, hoping the Colonel would disappear quickly.

He never asked me to take care of Cocoa again.

During my senior year, my parents (unknowing of my story) suggested I have the Colonel write a recommendation for me for college, since an Army Colonel would be a good advocate to have. “No, thanks,” I said.

How I wish I could go back and change what I did! The Colonel knew I hadn’t taken care

A brown standard poodle at five weeks

of that dog. I can only imagine the damage in his house when he returned. A starving, thirsty dog probably left messes all over and destroyed anything in its path.  I don’t know why the Colonel chose to see if I would be a big enough person to admit it; maybe he knew the years of guilt would be worse than the verbal confrontation. I have tried searching for him online several times in my adulthood so I could apologize- to no avail. God has forgiven me, but forgiving myself has taken longer.

I don’t know why I thought “Thou shalt not lie” (Exodus 20) didn’t apply to me, but I did.

I can remember the following week, justifying the fib in my mind:

  • What was I supposed to do? Everyone was listening!
  • I didn’t really “lie” per se; I just said, “thank you.” (note: It’s still “bearing false witness.”)
  • It was only $10.
  •  It’s just a dog.

Ugh.

Thinking a law (especially a law of God) doesn’t apply to me is a symptom of pride.

When telling a negative story, I prefer to use myself as the example, so I can use others as positive examples, but obviously in this world, there are many examples of actors, business owners and presidents who have had an ego that caused them to put themselves above a law…or two.

Huge scandals begin with a small thought in a heart. One little lie, because it was only $10, leads to millions unless the ego gets under control.

  • “I deserve to take these supplies home from work, because no one notices anyway,” is justifying stealing.
  • I can watch these movies because I am an adult now,” justifies adultery.
  • I am running late because of traffic,” (when really we left our house later than we should have and happened to also run into traffic) OR “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” (when we know it is really 20, but we don’t want the appointment to leave) is still lying.
  • That rule doesn’t apply to me, because I am so important to this team,” is taking advantage of your blessings.

Thanks to an analogy from my husband, Chris, I have often imagined that one day God will play the movie of my life back to review my behavior, while I watch beside Him. My stomach churning would never allow for popcorn during that movie. I imagine that it is MY life and no one else can be seen in the film. My heart has a voice in the movie, so my thoughts, actions and words are of equal volume, but the circumstances around the words, thoughts and actions cannot be seen, only the deeds for which I am responsible. My legs weaken when I see the laws that I took so lightly, thinking I was only doing what “anyone would do.” I do not like myself in so many of the scenes of those home movies.

Thankfully, God is not done with me yet. We can repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. (Acts 3:19) He can make us white as snow again. (Isaiah 1:18) Repentance begins with recognizing the need for repentance. Pride blocks recognition of our own sin and our need of a Savior.  Pride is the eclipse that blocks the Son from being seen. May I decrease that He may increase (John 3:30), and with that decrease, I can recognize that I am above no law.

Although God’s laws have no exceptions (Hebrews 10:16), neither does His grace. (Lamentations 3:22, Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 2:4) Believe in forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) Wow! God is amazing!

Although I chose to write about ego/pride during this holiday season because of its tremendous negative impact on relationships, I guess it’s becoming obvious that the ramifications go far beyond the family Christmas dinner and into eternity.  May we gain strength to live with eternal perspective, always.

God bless,
Terri Brady

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