Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

I was told when I was a kid to not ever ride a motorcycle. So, around nine years old I rode a motorcycle. I was at my friend Chris’s house and he had a little Honda 50cc. It beckoned me, begging me to give it a spin. Somewhere between bliss and torture, I had to lay her down.

At nine years old, no one tells you what proper motorcycle riding attire is. I was in shorts, you know mid-eighties Daisy-dukes, and some tennis shoes. That’s all. After peeling myself off of the ground the reality of my strawberry covered body hit me. The physical pain was what I was least afraid of.

For the next several days of that hot summer, I trendset early 90’s grunge and wore jeans and a flannel. Hiding my full-body scab from my parents was hard and I wasn’t able to pull it off for long. My mom gasped when she saw me with my shirt off for the first time and I had to think fast, “I fell down.”

“Jeremy, you’re scraped up all over your body.”

“Yeah, I was running really fast.” A top shelf lie.

My dad called me out on my lie pretty quickly and even accused me of riding a motorcycle, “God told me.” I could tell early on that Dad, a former man-of-the-world, was gonna be a hard one to pull stuff over on. He punished me by having me memorize Bible verses about how liars were going to spend eternity in hell. I didn’t come out of my room for three weeks. Apparently there’s a lot of verses about that.

I learned my lesson. There’s not much worse in a relationship than lying. It’s not the lie that is the problem. That’s forgivable. It’s the fact that so many statements will be doubted from that moment forward. What’s there to build upon? Trust is broken.

I forgot to put money under Brayden’s pillow a few years ago after he lost his 3rd or 4th tooth. Look, that’s like 30 teeth in all between the three of them and at some point, I just don’t care. He came storming into my room after the 3rd frustrating night of placing it under his pillow. “Dad! The tooth fairy jipped me again!” I had relied on his inability to sleep soundly in one position the first two nights and told him that the tooth fairy couldn’t find his tooth because he moved so much. But I could sense that he was getting weary of that excuse. So I thought quickly- because that always works.

“No, the tooth fairy came. She left the money in my wallet on the dresser because she couldn’t find your tooth again. Get it.”

He opened my wallet and said, “There’s a ten dollar bill and a one hundred dollar bill.”

“Oh, it’s definitely the ten.” Backfire. Who keeps money in their wallet anymore anyway?

That was an even tighter web of deceit. Lies to cover my lies.

I put Tiffanni to bed last night after a challenging bath time. She just couldn’t stay still. “I’m so excited, aren’t you?” she asked me.

“What about?”

“I’m getting better.” And she stared into my eyes. I can only guess that she was looking for a confirmation. Something to accelerate her belief. Or maybe the question just cold-cocked me in such a disorienting way that I felt it more as a question than a declaration of her own perceived reality.

“You sure are,” I stuttered as the words fumbled out of my mouth.

I guess it was Darwin or some shrink that first coined the idea of Fight or Flight. In the survival of the fittest, when your back is against the wall, you fight or you run away. In almost twenty years of ministry, I’ve seen a lot of people run away. Their desire to be just shuts down. They give in to life’s unfortunate lot and accept the hand that’s dealt. Which is of course completely understandable. I shut down some days too.

But not Tiffanni. She’s a fighter. She wants to go, and do, and be, and breathe. She wants to shop, and eat, and call on the phone, and go on dates. She wants to live. But her body is her archenemy. As stubborn as she is. It fights and she punches it right back. Her sheer determination to live a normal life is equal parts inspirational and discouraging. This would be so much easier if she just gave up. There would be no dissonance between her reality and my reality. What she sees and what I see. But she can’t. And I love her for it. Or in spite of it.

So she fights and I lie. “Yes, you’re getting better.” “No, you’re not moving much.” “Yes, I understand.” “No, everything is great.” Because I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something different about lying to your parents and breaking relationship, and lying to your wife to try and save it.