Recently I encountered a little boy about three-years-old who was told in no uncertain terms not to eat strawberries from the fridge before dinner. But only a few minutes later, the boy snuck into the kitchen and did precisely what was forbidden. His mom caught him, literally red-handed with strawberry juice on his fingertips. She asked incredulously, “Have you been eating strawberries?” This boy denied her accusation by shaking his head. He couldn’t very well answer because he had a certain fruit stuffed in his mouth!
Why do we lie? Certainly some lies are told by the guilty to avoid punishment, but I believe there is a deeper reason. The boy’s rather innocuous story calls to mind the theologically rich account of Adam and Eve. You might recall that they, too, ate forbidden fruit and proceeded to hide the truth. But what motivated this attempted cover up? It was the serpent who whispered in Eve’s ear, placing a subtle inclination in her mind that God was un-trustworthy. This seed of doubt blossomed into full-blown insecurity until she felt it was necessary to take matters into her own hands. She wanted to become her own God.
It seems to me that the root of our lies in this modern age is likewise our insecurity. Since the Enlightenment, we humans have claimed that we are our own gods: “I think, therefore I am.” Such posturing is a blatant contradiction of how scared we really are; we’d prefer to deny how vulnerable we truly feel. And so, like Adam and Eve, we shiver in the cold, hard truth that we are not in control. We are grasping fig leaves, feebly covering up how utterly exposed we are.
“Let us remember,” writes Christian Wiman, “that in the end we tell the truth for one reason: so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.”
Let’s hear this wisdom of “in-habitation” – literally to be at home. If we are at home in ourselves, we will not act out of fear or insecurity. If we are at peace, we will not make war with others or commit acts of violence against our environment. Instead, we’ll extend the grace to one another, just as we believe God has given grace to us. This is a return to Eden, a peace of mind, a safe and secure conscience, not because of our own efforts, but because of God’s love stronger than our sins. This truth shall set us free.
So, to return once again to our question, why do we lie? Do you remember our young friend? The reason his mother did not want him to eat strawberries was not because she was cruel or that the fruit was bad for him. In fact, she hoped that he would enjoy the food; she just wanted him to share the experience with the rest of the family at the table. Hopefully, day-by-day, that little boy will learn that he can trust his mother to have his best interest at heart. As we gather around the Lord’s Table, let us pray for the same faith, which allows us to more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live.