4 minute read

Don’t Tell Dad

By Rev. Tim Pauls

My friend Tony and I were doing slam-dunks. Sort of. Except that it was raining and we were inside my house. We didn’t have a basketball, so we were using this little foam rubber ball. And we didn’t have a hoop, so we were using the long, straight curtain rod that ran along the sliding glass door by the patio. Plus, we were really short.

My parents were gone because they’d decided that Tony and I were just old enough to be responsible on our own.

After a few warm-ups, it was time for a raw display of power. I grabbed the ball, arced through the air and threw it home with both hands. Just to be cool, I decided to hang on the rim. The rim made out of that thin aluminum curtain rod, the kind that bends when some idiot kid hangs on it with both hands.

We stared up at the mangled “Z” that had once been a curtain rod. My parents would not be happy when they got home. Big trouble was coming. But Tony was there; and if Tony was there, my parents wouldn’t yell at me near as much as if Tony wasn’t there. I was real glad that Tony was there.

“I gotta go,” said Tony; and he did, leaving me all alone with the curtain rod and a serious dread working through my stomach. Big, big trouble was coming. And that little voice of self-preservation inside said, “Don’t tell Dad, because this will cost you big-time. You want him to think you’re a good kid, and good kids don’t tear the house apart when their parents leave. Deny. Hide. Pretend nothing happened. But don’t tell Dad.”

This advice was so natural that it sounded good for a minute. But what was I supposed to do? Hope that my folks just wouldn’t notice the twisted scrap metal on the window? Hide it somewhere? How long until they tried to close the drapes—maybe a couple of hours?

The front door opened and time was up, so I told them. They were disappointed, but they forgave me. There was some punishment, but it ended: they let me out of my room to write this. Nah, just kidding. It was water under the bridge a long time ago. In some ways, I’m kind of thankful that the damage was so obvious that I couldn’t hide it. If it had been something else, maybe I just would have listened to that voice inside and tried to lie, deny, and cover it all up.

You’ve been there, too, and you will be again. You do something stupid, and you don’t want to ‘fess up. Why? Because it just doesn’t seem real smart to tell someone that you did something wrong when they have the authority to punish you. So if it’s not smart to confess to your parents or teachers, it’s got to be colossally stupid to confess to God. At least, that’s what the devil wants you to think. Don’t tell God: He has almighty power with which to punish you.

Some people will go through life and work very hard at never admitting guilt to anyone, God included. The reasons will vary. They may think that they’d lose too much power. They may have too much pride. Or, perhaps within their twisting thoughts, they figure that if they don’t admit their sin, then they’re not sinful. “Don’t tell God, and He won’t know.” Not a good plan.

I’ve come to treasure a Bible verse that I first learned from the liturgy; in fact, we still sing it nearly every Sunday. It’s Psalm 32:5: “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” “Confess” means to “say the same thing”—to say the same thing that God says. When we confess our sins, we say the same thing that God already says about us: We’re sinful and deserve His judgment. But we don’t stop confessing there. We say the same thing about Him that He says about Him: That for the sake of His Son, He’s given His Word that He will forgive us.

“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.’ ” What audacity and faith! It’s a line that really has got to tick off the devil and your old sinful nature. As long as you hide that sin, it’s going to rot away at your faith. But instead of hiding your sins from God, you tell Him. You tell Him because, even though you deserve His wrath, He’s promised grace: He’s already punished Jesus in full for your sins at the cross, and all that’s left for Him to say to you is, “I forgive you.”

Another liturgy uses another verse to put it another way: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:8,9). Break the silence and confess it to the Lord, and the absolution washes it away and raises you up anew. Forget “don’t tell Dad.” Confess your sin to your Father in heaven, and for Jesus’ sake the sin is gone for good.

The Rev. Timothy Pauls is Associate Pastor and Headmaster at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School in Boise, Idaho. He is on the editorial board of Higher Things.