[Today’s guest post is from Laura Droege, a wonderful writer who touches upon the vulnerabilities of life and the strength of faith.]
Back in high school, I was unpopular with the boys. Seriously unpopular. I’m not sure they were aware of my existence, except for those rare occasions when they called to get homework assignments for a class they’d missed. And, being a very self-conscious teenage girl, I was certain that everyone in the entire school was aware of my dateless status. The thought filled me with angst, but I couldn’t exactly coerce a guy into asking me out, and asking him out was out of the question. Too aggressive.
One day in English class, we had a substitute who let us study, do homework, or talk. (You can guess what most of us did.) I was midway through a reading assignment when Susan, the girl sitting in front of me, turned around. “So, who have you gone out with, Laura?”
My best friend poked me in the spine. “Say you went to the movies with a guy last summer,” she hissed.
Susan was popular. I followed Cori’s advice. “Well,” I began, “I went to the movies last summer with this guy. We saw The Lion King.”
Susan’s eyes widened. Here was new information. “What was his name?”
“Joshua, Joshua Trent. He goes to my grandmother’s church, and I met him when I stayed at my grandparents’ house. He’s really super nice. He goes to Vanderbilt. He’s in the pre-med program there.”
“Oooo.” Susan seemed impressed by the details. “So, did you, you know, let him kiss you?”
I smiled one of those I’m-not-a-kiss-and-tell-type-of-girl smiles and flicked my eyes away, like I was remembering a romantic moment.
Now, there was indeed a young man named Joshua Trent whom I had met when I visited my grandmother’s house that past summer. He was very nice. But he was a year younger than I was and he didn’t go to Vanderbilt and we never got within spitting distance, much less kiss.
The news that I had gone on a date spread across the classroom, spilled into the halls between classes, and raced through the cafeteria. By lunch, everyone in my small high school knew. A guy from The Table of Popular People approached me at my place at The Table of Outcasts. “Hey, I heard you’re dating a guy at Vanderbilt. My sister goes there. Maybe she knows him.”
I thought fast. “Well, what I really meant was that he used to go there.”
“Yeah, he lost his scholarship, and his parents didn’t have enough money to keep sending him there, so now he’s going to MTSU.”
Wes trotted back to The Popular Table with that information. Cori’s boyfriend, sitting across the table from me, had his head in his arms because he was laughing so hard. My other friends rolled their eyes.
The more lies I told, the more I had to tell. And with each lie, I became more and more convinced that they were really, in some twisted way, the truth. My mind started whirling with the possibilities of friendship and romance between myself and the half-mythical Joshua. Never mind the truth. In my mind, Joshua and I had a bond, we were destined for each other, and the pain of separation was excruciating. (Really, the only “bond” was my attachment to my lies and their attachment to me.) By the end of the day, I announced to my friends that I missed Joshua. “I feel so sad,” I said, close to tears.
And I really did feel sad. I’d spoken this bizarre lie to myself, as well as other people, and let a lie change my emotional state to sadness and sorrow over a guy who didn’t exist in reality. And why? All to avoid embarrassment.
The wonder at unpopular Laura’s relationship with the former pre-med major-turned-scholarship-loser died off by the next day. To my knowledge, Susan and Wes and the crowd at The Popular Table never found out the truth. So I never got caught in my web of lies like conventional wisdom says liars do.
But I still think about it, every once in a while, and wonder why I felt compelled to lie about something so trivial.
And not just lie once, but multiple times.
And not just lie to others, but to myself and allow a lie to manipulate my emotions.
And not just that, but to allow it to affect my relationship with God. I was telling God, “I don’t trust you to comfort me if someone else finds out that I’m dateless. I can protect myself from gossip with a lie. I can protect myself better than you can, God.”
Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us not to lie. It’s not a suggestion. God commands us not to lie, not just to protect other people from dishonesty, but to protect us from the harm we do ourselves each time we tell ourselves a lie.
[Laura Droege is a wife of a rocket scientist, a mama of two daughters, and a novelist with three manuscripts in search of a good publishing home. She holds a graduate degree in literature and taught English as a second language for four years. I hope you visit her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.]