I Always Get Caught

Numbers 32:23

I had mixed emotions about Vacation Bible School. I enjoyed trying to make creations out of Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, but I would honestly rather have been outside playing Tarzan or Baloo or Jungle Jim than lining up for the processional into the auditorium. I’ve always preferred variety over routine, and every morning was the same – line up, march in, say the pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. It was only one week long, though, so I survived. Perhaps my most vivid memory was story time. Our church had the latest technology with which to impress profound biblical truths into young minds – flannel-graphs and filmstrips.  The filmstrip was magical. A vinyl disc record played while still images from across the globe were projected onto a screen. At periodic intervals, the record would beep, signaling to the projectionist it was time to forward to the next image. This was indeed an effective device because I still remember two of the stories.

The first story entailed how indigenous peoples in Africa captured monkeys. They would place a jar of nuts in the monkey habitat, and because the jar had a narrow opening, the monkey could not get his fistful of nuts out of the jar, and he was too stubborn to let go of the nuts. Thus, the creature was stationary and easily captured. In the second story, a snake would crawl into the hen-house through a small opening in the wall. The serpent would find and swallow an egg and, on the way out through the same hole, the egg would crack, thus allowing an easy meal and an easy escape. The owner of the property eventually replaced the eggs with hard-boiled eggs, and the snake was caught. Both of these stories had the same theme, “Be sure, your sin will find you out.”

As I continued growing up, I learned this lesson repeatedly. I always got caught… always. There are two reasons for this: first, I was a preacher’s kid. Everybody loves to tattle on the preacher’s kid. They take a special delight in publicly shaming the offspring of the Man-of-God.  There is an assumption that PKs should be more holy than other children. Even my father thought so. He would constantly remind me, “You’re better than that!” Secondly, I was simply not good at being bad.  I tried, I honestly tried, but I was just a rotten sinner. Two specific transgressions come to mind, and both involved plagiarism.

In Fifth Grade, I had an English assignment to write a limerick.  I knew I could do it, but I waxed lazy. The idea popped into my head that I had read a very fine limerick just a few days earlier. Pennye was taking piano lessons, and one of her assigned pieces was called, “Three Limericks.” Why reinvent the wheel, right? I reproduced the last of those three:

“There was a young fellow from Perth – He was born on the day of his birth – He was married, they say, on his wife’s wedding day – And he died when he quitted the earth.”

Assignment complete, now let’s move on. (Not so fast.) A few days later, the teacher took five of us down to the local newspaper office. She had not told us, but her plan was to pick the five best limericks in the class and have them published, along with a photo of our bright young faces, in the local paper. I knew the jig was up. Someone would recognize the verse I had claimed as my own.  Furthermore, we were to recite our limericks at the end-of-school program, not many days hence.  I sat on the couch in the lobby of the newspaper office and explained to her why I could not appear in the picture with my classmates. She thanked me for my honesty and said, “Wes, you’re better than that.” She also graciously allowed me to write a new limerick to be read at the program, as my name was already in the printed hand-outs. With a lump in my throat and a red face I read my genuinely original limerick:

“There once was a bunny – Who really was quite funny – He would jump once or twice, then eat some lice – and say it hurt his tummy.”

I received numerous kudos over the success, but I was just glad the ordeal was over.

As if I hadn’t learned my lesson, two years later my Seventh Grade English teacher assigned us the task of authoring a short story.  Again, Pennye (who was truly creative) provided my rescue (or my demise). She had earlier composed a similar story for an English class. It was a parody of “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin,” and I remembered it verbatim “Barlie Chown and the Great Watermelon.” How on earth did my English teacher know what Pennye had written for another English teacher in another town?? Well, she knew, and I was caught…again. This teacher was not so gracious, and I simply received an F on the assignment. And since people love to tattle on PKs, she told my father.  He was not forgiving or gracious either. He applied the “board of education” to my reset button, and said, “You’re better than that.”

I was not better than that. Sin is universal, and laziness is a cruel mistress. The saddest fact is that I was more grieved by the fact that I got caught than I was about my actual felonious deeds. I was angry because on so many occasions my accomplices seemed to escape with little or no consequence, while I paid dearly.  This much I can assure you, dear reader, whatever we think we may have hidden well will come out – some day, somehow, somewhere. The punishment will be swifter than we think and more severe than we hope. Take it from me; I always got caught.


Published in: on June 20, 2018 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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