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.