On lying in testimonies
Posted by David
Not long ago someone offered to “edit me.” In context it obviously meant “edit my writing,” but still it aroused a wild thought about something that would be quite a superpower: the ability to edit a person. I wanted to start with myself. Bad choices from 1997? Erased or amended. Faults? Smoothed over, like yesterday. Almost as quickly as the thought came forth, though, another thought arose and destroyed it, quietly but utterly. Everything on the record will stand; I am content in this, and regret nothing. Not because I’m “real,” or “raw,” or “I gotta be me,” but because the kindness of God moves me to repent and to be satisfied with His mercy. That satisfaction leaves no room for self-editing.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the not uncommon sin of lying in testimonies. Especially I’ve been thinking about the gravity of this particular sin. If we cannot tell the truth about the work of God in our redemption, our lies not only reflect, but perpetuate and fix, distorted views of ourselves, of God, and of the world. Lies here run perilously close to blaspheming the Holy Ghost, the sin by which we make ourselves unable to repent of anything. Lying in testimonies is a kind of sickness unto death. Left unchecked, it makes the formation of healthy life narratives impossible.
To bring this to a point for those with a vocation of writing, since we cannot help but create what we know, lying in testimonies makes it impossible to tell good stories. This is true no matter what kind of lie we tell in our own stories — whether we lie by whitewashing ourselves until we’re sin-free, by overdramatizing sin so we can overdramatize our subsequent conversion, by casting ourselves as innocent martyr, or by appearing as the “real” man, confessing sins and denying their sinfulness. A man who cannot be honest in telling his own story cannot be trusted to tell the stories of his sub-creations.