I Lied to the Librarian

Yesterday I had to confess my sin to the librarian. I lied to her. And not even for a good reason, either.

In our city the only decent theological library is at Grace University, which also happens to be where Coram Deo leases space for our Sunday gatherings. I often spend a half-day each week in said library doing research for my sermons and trying to avoid the Bible-school kids who want to talk about church planting. I often check books out and take them with me. I often forget to return said books on time. I often get fined. But those fines are so minimal that they’re really more annoyances than penalties.

So last week I was checking out a book and the very kind woman who helps to run the library paused after she scanned my library card. “Looks like you have a fine of $1.60.”

“Yeah, can you just put that on my tab?” I said wryly.

“Do you have $1.60?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. Even though I had a $20 in my wallet.

She kindly handed me my books and allowed me to delay payment until another day.

But as I left, the Holy Spirit was working on me. I could have been honest and told her that I just didn’t want to break a $20 for my $1.60 library fine. I could have told her I’d clean out my couch cushions and bring the fine in next week. But instead, I lied.

In my sermon last week, I asked, “What sin do you need to confess or confront?” As I was asking myself that question in prayerful preparation, it was clear that I needed to confess to the librarian.

But I didn’t really want to. Mainly because it was going to be embarrassing. I mean, who ever confesses that sort of thing? It would just make for a real awkward conversation. She wouldn’t quite know what to do with it. It would be easier just to pay the $1.60 and be done with it. Which is exactly why I needed to have the conversation. Because part of repentance is humility – dying to the awkwardness and being willing to be known as a sinner who needs to repent. Even if that repentance seems silly and trivial to the observer.

So yesterday I said to her, “Hey, I need to confess for lying to you.” Her eyes got real big. I went on to explain. I think it was a little out of the ordinary for a library patron to confess sin to the librarian. Usually people just ask how to find books. The only thing she really said was: “Really, you just didn’t want to pay $1.60?” (read with emphasis on “1.60,” emphasizing the trivialness of the amount)

It was awkward and embarrassing. And sanctifying.


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  1. You could have easily dismissed this situation by “taking care of it on the level it happened,” just keeping it between you and the librarian. It is a teachable moment. Nothing is trivial. My heart tells me to write off all my own sin as trivial, and I need reminders that none of them are. Thanks.

  2. Reading Bob’s confession made me think of St. Augustine’s. At the end of this passage St. Augustine emphasizes that it isn’t the object of the sin that we desire, but it is the action of disobedience. Therefore, I see ignoring the daily minutia as even more dire, because not only is it essentially idolatrous but also it is the curt assumption that idolatry doesn’t even matter.

    “There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night — having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was — a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart — which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error — not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.”

    Pears. A library fee. They are such small things, such excusable things. But when people say that a sin is too small to bother over, and therefore they don’t have to pay the fee, or confess the lie, or apologize about the harsh words, I am amazed at how they can see the obedience as being such as small thing but even still will not obey. Can’t you do the small thing?

    Catch for us the foxes,
    the little foxes
    that ruin the vineyards,
    our vineyards that are in bloom.

    But when I laugh at their double standard, I don’t think I’m really understanding what they mean. Their action doesn’t say: “If it was wrong, I could to right.” In their heart they aren’t uncertain over a shades-of-gray conviction. They are supressing the truth, and their heart says to them, “For me, it doesn’t matter. I am above the command to obey.”

  3. Bob this is brilliant. Once I stopped laughing because we have all done this (blush) I have to admire you for going back and fessing up – well done mate:)

  4. Thanks for sharing, Bob, and being someone who not only teaches us of our need for repentance but shares your own need of it. I appreciate your leading by example.

  5. Like a friend said to me about my gross sin… “And so?”
    Praise God that ALL our sins are covered by Jesus’ blood.
    And thank Him that we can shuck out some shekels to pay what we owe.
    Good going, Pastor Bob!
    You are exampling to all of us.

  6. It’s always good to see our leaders demonstrating humility and admitting their own sins. I appreciate your leadership in this Bob!

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