We all have a checkered past, and this is part of mine. Mine was not a crime of opportunity. Oh no. It was premeditated and carefully orchestrated. Flawlessly, I might add.
If I hadn’t confessed, no one would have ever known.
Like many of my 5th grade friends, I was a regular customer at the pharmacy that stood between school and home. Some days we’d stop for a candy bar or a bag of chips, but my purchase always included a handful of Bazooka bubble gum. At two cents each, they were a bargain in any economy.
As I dropped my school bag on the floor beside the counter, I squatted to reach into the bin of bubble gum at the bottom of the candy rack. In my crouched position, I was completely hidden from the cashier’s view. In a brilliant moment of insight, I realized I could easily stuff a handful of bubble gum in my bag and never be seen. I passed on the opportunity, paid for my candy, and left, but the idea remained.
I returned the next day to do the deed.
By this point in my narrative, you’re probably thinking, “If this is the biggest sin she’s got on her conscience, she needs to get a life .” Sadly, this isn’t the biggest sin I’ve committed, but I’m sharing it today to make a point.
I became a Christian eight years after this experience. When I surrendered my life to Christ and began to study my Bible, an interesting thing happened. I began to remember the sins I had committed in my “before Christ” life. Stealing the bubble gum was one of many.
Burdened with guilt, shame, and regret, I sought counsel from a wise friend. She shared 1 John 1:9, which taught me, “If we confess our sins, he (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” She taught me to daily confess my sins to God, forsake them, and ask God to help me not repeat them. “If your sin has hurt another person,” she said, “ask their forgiveness too, and do whatever you can to make it right.”
“But what about the sins I committed long ago?” I asked her.
“God forgives those, too,” she said kindly.
One day after I asked God to reveal any sin in my life, he reminded me of the Bazooka bubble gum heist. I confessed my theft and asked God to forgive and cleanse me. I thought that should have settled it, but oh, no, God had other ideas.
“You should confess your sin to the pharmacy manager, too,” he said, “and ask him to forgive you. Tell him you’re a Christian now, and as best you know how, you’re trying to live in a way that honors God. Then make restitution for the gum you stole.”
“But God,” I said, “That pharmacy is 1,000 miles away. I don’t even LIVE there anymore!”
“Then write a letter.”
“That’s silly, Lord,” I said, “what is that man going to think when he reads a letter from a woman who lives 1,000 miles away and stole six pieces of chewing gum 10 years ago?”
“It doesn’t matter what he thinks,” God whispered to my heart, “what matters is what I think.”
Someone once said that being nagged is like being nibbled to death by a duck. Well, the Holy Spirit nagged me until I finally surrendered.
I wrote the letter and confessed my crime.
I also shared the story of my conversion and how I had confessed my thieving ways to God and received forgiveness. “Now,” I wrote humbly, “I’d like to ask you to forgive me too. I’m enclosing a dollar (adjusted for inflation) to make restitution for the gum I stole.” I enclosed a tract that shared the gospel.
And I signed my name.
God’s never nibbled me over this sin again.
I was forgiven and free.
I’ve followed these steps many times over the years. They apply to big sins, like driving a friend to an abortion clinic when I was a teenager, and “small” sins like disrespecting my parents and being lazy. Sometimes my confession and request for forgiveness is kindly received; other times it’s been difficult. Each time, I ask God for courage to do what he’s calling me to do.
What sin(s) from your past do you still struggle with? Have you ever called them by name, confessed and forsaken them, and allowed God to cleanse you? If you’ve sinned against another person, do you need to ask their forgiveness and make restitution if necessary? One of the greatest testimonies of God’s redeeming work in the world is a transformed life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (1 Corinthians 5:17).