Hiding My Beef Stick Wrapper
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” Genesis 42:21
When I was a kid, my family was camping on vacation one summer when my sister and I were sent to the camp store to purchase something. Without permission, we also bought a beef stick. On our way back to the campsite, we ate the beef stick, hiding the wrapper under a log. The rest of that vacation was ruined for me because every time my family walked by that log, I knew my parents were going to roll it over, find the wrapper, and discover exactly what we’d done. I’d done something I knew to be wrong, lied about it, and was subsequently tormented by my guilty conscience.
Many years later, I found myself in a somewhat similar situation in my addiction. I knew what I was doing was wrong and so I had to create a double life, constantly lying to everyone around me. My deceit took a tremendous emotional toll on me though. While living the lie, I dwelt in continual angst, never knowing a moment of peace. In my deceit, I couldn’t look at God and so my spiritual life was paralyzed. Continually lying to my wife took its toll on that relationship as well. When the truth eventually came out, as it always does, our marriage was broken in such a way that I thought it was over.
A guilty conscience is miserable, which is what Joseph’s brothers discovered in today’s passage. In it, the brothers, who’d once sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery, stood before him without recognizing him. Only now, Joseph was in a position of authority over them. Joseph used the opportunity to take a little revenge, incarcerating them. In their distress, the brother’s guilty conscience sprang to life. This is punishment for what we once did to Joseph. Their lie must have caused them tremendous internal turmoil, damaging their relationship with their father and with God. Now, years later, the truth was about to be exposed and it was going to be painful.
This is the nature of our secret lies. We may think we get away with them for a time, but while living the lie, we sow internal turmoil. This inevitably damages our relationships with God and those closest to us. Then, when the truth eventually comes out, the destruction can be catastrophic. The lesson of course, is that we shouldn’t engage in behavior that we must hide in the first place. If we do though, we must confess it, no matter how painful. If we desire to experience peace, spiritual growth, and healthy relationships with those around us, we cannot harbor secret lies. We may think we can get away with the double life, but the truth always comes out and even if it doesn’t our guilty conscience is its own punishment.