Chloe stood in the doorway of her room, smiling at me. Yet the smile was unlike her usual smile. It didn’t hold the brightness. It didn’t display the openness. There was no enjoyment in it. Instead, it seemed guarded. Forced. Something plastered on her face to distract me from something else she didn’t want me to see.
I stopped. I looked at her. I narrowed me eyes and drilled her with my hardest "Daddy Look," which Amy tells me is about as hard as a marshmallow Peep.
"You know what you look like to me?" I asked her. "Guilty, that’s what. You look like you’ve been caught doing something you shouldn’t have."
Sure enough, a few steps past her and into the room, my suspicions were confirmed. The room was a mess. Books were pulled off the shelves. Kleenex littered the floor. Toys dotted the carpet like sharp-pointed little mines waiting to gouge my feet as I walked through the room in the dark.
This wasn’t just a little mess, mind you. It was a full-blown, category five Hurricane Chloe mess. How could one little girl cause so much destruction?
You know, I wouldn’t have been as upset with her actions if she hadn’t known what she was doing. Oh, but she did! She wasn’t oblivious. She knew it was wrong. Yet, it didn’t stop her from doing it.
And now that the damage was done and she heard Daddy coming down the hall, she decided her only option now was damage control. So there she stood, doll in hand, a sweet (albeit fake) smile plastered on her face, trying her best to look as pure as the wind-driven snow.
Yet despite her attempts to deceive me about her guilt, it was evident to me. How? Because I know my little girl. I know when she’s being fake and when she’s being genuine. I know when her smile comes easily, and I know when it’s forced.
Our heavenly father knows the same thing about us.
Ever try to convince God that you’re better than you really are? Ever try to redirect his attention away from your sin and toward your momentary good behavior?
We try various tactics, don’t we? We sing louder. We work harder. We pray more fervently. All the while we’re saying, "Do you see me, Father? Do you see how good I’m being? Pay no attention to the sin behind the curtain. Look at me and see how innocent I am right now."
But all these acts of worship and service are as forced as Chloe’s smile. And God is not honored by that. Nor is he fooled.
Do you know what God wants us to do? He wants us to quit pretending. He wants us to quit putting on a show. Have we sinned? Then confess it. Have we made a mess of things? Then repent of the actions that got us into that mess, and ask him to help us clean it up.
But what would be better than all that, is to recognize the sin and turn from it before we even commit it.
That’s what I hope Chloe will learn to do one day. I’m tired of stepping on her toys and poking my feet.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville.