I’m a thief.
This became clear to me as a fifth grader many years ago. I loved candy corns. I would eat them one at a time, starting by biting off the white tip, then the orange center and finally chasing it down with the yellow base. I was convinced each color had its own distinct flavor.
One day when Mom took me to the grocery store, I was bored and wandered off alone to the candy aisle to window shop the sweet life.
When I arrived at the candy corn shelf, with each of those bags stacked so voluptuously, I wondered if it would really matter if I took just a few of those beauties to taste. It wouldn’t hurt anybody. Nobody would know.
After ensuring there was no one watching, I pierced a corner of one of the plastic bags with my fingers, grabbed a few pieces and then got out of Dodge as if the warm breath of the blood hounds could be felt on the nape of my neck.
As it happens with any crime of passion, this initial breach of integrity amplified and continued for several months, as I got bolder and took larger handfuls. Sometimes I would sample from several bags. Nothing tasted better than those sumptuous pyramids and the addictive adrenalin rush of my pilfering erased the boredom of shopping for groceries.
When you have the mind of a criminal, you believe it’s not stealing if you don’t get caught.
That reasoning came to a halt one day when I looked up after my usual sleight of hand to see an assistant manager wearing a grocer’s apron round the aisle and come storming toward me.
To this day I’m not sure how he apprehended such a cunning larcener. This was before video cameras, close circuit television and DNA evidence. Perhaps they had my photograph pinned on the office cork board with the words, “Candy Corn Bandit” written across it. I suppose just like any repeat offender, you get overconfident, you get sloppy and you make a mistake.
He told me he should call the police, but he chose crueler punishment. He said, “Where’s your mother?”
That would be the woman who would soon be standing at checkout when the cashier asked, “Ma’am, do you know this bag is torn?” My mother wouldn’t look at me. She stared icily ahead with a face of shame, anger and disappointment.
Worse. I knew later the front door of my home would open, those heavy steps would creak on the floorboard, and there would be my dad, prepared to demonstrate his displeasure at discovering his son was a crook. It was a miserable day in my life.
I never shoplifted again and was traumatized into a much more honest way of living.
But at the time, I missed the most important lesson. The great sin was not the theft of the candy corn. It was the erroneous belief no one was watching.
At the time I had no clear understanding of God. I was pretty sure he existed but thought He mostly hung out at that church we would visit on Easter and Christmas.
I would have never stolen the candy with my mother standing there watching. And certainly not if my father was anywhere in the vicinity. Not a chance.
In the same way, if I had a firm belief that God was in my presence at the time, standing right beside me in that grocery aisle, the indiscretion would have never occurred.
And now, many years later as a Believer, I understand theologically how God is ever-present and actively engaged and deeply interested in each and every detail of my life.
So why do I still sin? Why do I still fall short of the Glory of God?
The answer is simple: I lack faith.
The ultimate statement of disbelief is ever thinking we can get away with something. Nobody will know.
Just like Adam and Eve, we actually believe we can hide from God.
As Christians, we are often operating our lives with crumbs and chocolate smudges on our cheeks saying, “What cookies?”
We suffer from high divorce rates, are often addicted to alcohol, drugs and pornography, crowd the jails and prisons, steal from our employer, gossip, cheat on our taxes, lie, cuss and live as hypocrites. We blend into the culture preferring to fit in rather than speaking out. And even if we do, our message is compromised by our own actions.
Much of this is exacerbated by the modern church’s aversion to teach on the subject of sin.
We don’t want to push people away. We don’t want to drive them towards feeling guilty. Let’s just talk about God’s grace.
What we end up with is Couch Potato Religiosity. Just pop open that bag of chips, grab the remote and let the Holy Trinity take care of the rest. Forget about that line from Jesus that says, “If you love me you’ll obey my commands.”
They teach of our Lord as if He is the eternal get-out-of-jail card. He’s the diaper changer. The all-purpose liquid beach, just waiting on the shelf when we make a mess of our lives. Go ahead and live your life as you please and simply call this number if you get in a pickle.
Although it’s well-meaning, it backfires by pushing us farther away from Him.
Because sin in our lives is the evidence of our distance from God. By numbing our sensitivity to sin, we lose touch with the damage it’s causing ourselves and those around us.
When we are in His presence, sin is clearly revealed to be a lie. To be a con. To be a choice of worthlessness and destruction. When we are closest to Him, all we want is that which is good and truthful. The sweetest moments of our lives are when we feel embraced in His arms.
That’s why there is great power in knowing we are never alone. There is never an anonymous act.
When we’re at that hotel on that business trip and deciding what to watch on the television, He is there to give us strength. When we’re filling out those reimbursement receipts and are tempted to add in a few extra miles, He is with us. When we’re about to gossip, cheat, bend the rules or tell those little white lies, we have Him to lean on.
Sin is a self-inflicted wound. He deeply desires to keep us from hurting ourselves.
For a long time as a child, it was hard for me to see candy corns without feeling shame. But I haven’t felt that way for some time, because I know I’m forgiven.
In fact, I love candy corns. I embrace the memory of my theft like many of the other scars in my life.
Because they are a constant reminder of just who I would be without Him.
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Learn more about the author Michael K. Reynolds