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Candy bars and Confessions; Guilt and Grace

May 14, 2018 - Betsy Bethel
When I was about 9 years old, I stole a candy bar from the Convenient Food Mart across the street from the apartment where I lived with my mom and older sister. I was with an older neighbor girl, my partner in crime. I’m pretty sure it was her idea, but I was no stranger to stealing: I’d been nicking coins out of my sister’s koala-bear bank for years to buy candy.

This, though, was next-level stuff. I don’t remember what kind of candy bar I took (ironically, Whatchamacallit was my favorite at the time). I can, however, still call up the stimulating feeling of nervous euphoria, the thrill of successful deceit.

The feelings eventually curdled a couple nights later as I lay in my twin bed with the light spilling in from the hallway, waiting for my mom to tuck me in. In my gut and in my head I felt a sure conviction that if I didn’t tell her what I had done, the dirty deed would rot me from the inside out, and my guilt would be written all over my face like so much smeared chocolate.

I lay there weighing that fear against the horror of disappointing my mom, my No. 1 fan.

As she sat down on the side of my bed, I decided I was more scared of the guilt than of my mom. I was pretty sure, no matter what, she’d still love me. I took a deep breath as a few hot, honest tears leaked out, and I confessed.

I was right to bet on my mom. She was disappointed, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I went to the store manager the next morning with a quarter and an apology, Mom by my side. He banned me for 30 days. I felt the punishment fit the crime. I’m sure he also kept more than one eye on me the next few times I crossed the threshold.

I was so relieved to have a clear conscience, and I felt closer to my mom than ever.

Now it’s my daughter’s turn. My 12-year-old last week confessed to disobeying my rule about chatting online with complete strangers. I’ve impressed upon her time and again that you never know who really is on the other end, and they could be predators. Obviously, this is more serious than my chocolate caper. She experienced the same emotions I did, though. It was fun for awhile to feel she was getting away with something, but in the end, she knew it was wrong — not to mention dangerous. The guilt was eating her alive.

Before she confessed, I assured her she could tell me anything. I was not going to love her any less, no matter what she had done.

Yes, I am disappointed and angry with her, but mostly I am grateful and proud of her for ‘fessing up.

She was euphoric after unloading to me. She couldn’t believe the grace I’d given her. I couldn’t believe the grace God gave me. My daughter gets a second chance to earn my trust, but I am so thankful I get another go at keeping her safe.

 
 

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