Jul 11, 2009

My tell-tale heart

In the summer of 1974 I committed a crime in Disneyland. I was there with my cousin and we had just come out of a gift shop. I didn’t have any money, so I didn’t buy anything. After we left, my cousin said, “Hey, I got something for you”. It was a Disneyland keychain. It had Snow White’s castle embedded on a leather key fob. It was so cool.


“Wow”, I said. “How much was that?”


“Nothing. I stole it”. He replied. “Put it in your pocket and don’t tell anyone”.


I put the keychain in my pocket and didn’t tell anyone. And thus began one of the most miserable experiences in my life.


You see, I had never stolen anything. True, I was a troublemaker. But stealing? No way. I knew about shoplifting and I knew that I could be thrown in prison for decades. But I was between a rock and a hard place. If I went back to the store to return the keychain I would get my cousin in trouble. If I kept the key chain, I was an accomplice to a theft. After I put the key chain in my pocket, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t really do anything wrong. After all, my cousin stole the key chain... Not me.


But the guilt continued. When I got home I put the keychain in my wooden chest. But that was no comfort. Like the tell-tale heart from Poe it called out to me. “Thief. Thief.” I was like Macbeth trying to wash Duncan’s blood off my hands.


Guilt is like that. Until it is dealt with, it can drive one mad. That is what caused an unusual event in Utah last week. The Utah Department of Transportation received a cashier’s check for $600. In a letter attached to the check the sender explained that he had stolen a stop sign 35 years ago. He hoped that no one was injured because of his very foolish youth. He wanted to set things right. I imagine this person fretted for 35 years wondering if taking the stop sign resulted in someone’s death. That’s cause for guilt.


As humans, guilt is built into our DNA. But while there are always human consequences for the foolish youthful things we do one thing is certain. Once we confess those sins to God, He forgives us. We might still have to make things right with the world, but the power of the cross made things right between us and God.




Pastor David Hook


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