How was it that I had begun to take certain wrongdoing so lightly? How was it that I could justify theft?
I was a graduate assistant at Bob Jones University. That meant while I was taking my grad classes, I was also working thirty hours a week at Bob Jones University Press to pay my school bill.
Except there came a point where I wasn’t working. I don’t know how it happened, really, but it seemed that one department thought that another department was giving me work, and the other department thought the same. And since I was sitting in my cubicle working very hard on something, everybody left me alone.
Actually, I was studying. At that time, I was taking some excruciatingly difficult math classes, I wasn’t a math whiz, and I needed to study about twenty hours for each test, just to get through the class. I saw the lack of work responsibilities as a total Godsend.
Did I question the fact that I had contracted to work for thirty hours a week, but wasn’t doing it? Yes, but in a voice that I succeeded in shoving back in the deep dark recesses of my mind.
I don’t remember how many weeks this went on. But at some point the classes ended, I graduated, and I went on to take a staff position at the Press.
Fast forward about five years. I was married and had a new baby. (In fact, I was a SAHM, when SAHMing wasn’t cool.)
So here I was, my baby asleep beside me. Reading Jonathan Goforth’s By My Spirit, and praying for revival. I got up and begin to pace the floor, crying out to God for revival. I didn’t really understand just what I was praying for, but I knew I wanted it, desperately.
And the Lord said to me, “Who do you think you are to be asking for revival when there are sin issues in your own life that are unresolved?” And the specter of those study hours in my little cubicle—that specter haunted me.
I cried out to God for forgiveness. I so much wanted it to be gone, to be wiped away. I knew that God forgave me. . . .
But I also knew there was something more that needed to be done. I got knots in my stomach. I tried to shove the thought away. The very thought of going back to the University to tell them what I had done terrified me.
But I couldn’t pray for revival any more.
Days passed—I don’t remember how many days—until finally I was so miserable that I told my wise husband about my sin. He didn’t rebuke or chastise me. But he did say, “Maybe you need to go talk to someone over there.”
We discussed the possible ramifications. Would we pay them back for the lost hours out of our meager funds? Would I go back to work at the Press for a time, feeling like I was wearing a scarlet letter? (It would be “T” for “Thief.”)
We finally decided that I would make an appointment with someone in administration and I would offer him to make reparations in whichever of these ways he thought best.
So I did. I made that appointment. My hands felt clammy as they held the phone receiver. I was terrified.
The day of the appointment came. I walked to his office, feeling in something of a daze. I was terrified.
I sat down before him and swallowed and stuttered. I explained what I had done. Then I said, “I’ll pay the school back whatever the hours were worth, or I’ll go there and work if you think that’s better.”
He observed that through the years other people who had been overcome with guilt had also come to the University to confess wrongdoing.
Then I added, “I’m willing to get up in faculty-staff meeting and confess it.”
He leaned forward abruptly. “Oh that won’t be necessary,” he said. “We don’t want to air our dirty laundry.”
A relief washed over me. Because, honestly, the thought of getting up in faculty-staff meeting to confess my wrongdoing was absolutely terrifying.
He went on with something like, “We’ll take care of it. I’ll talk to someone about how to handle it, and we’ll let you know. It won’t be public.”
I walked out of there shaking with relief. Thanking God in trembling weakness that it had gone so well, that he had seemed so understanding.
I don’t remember if I was called back in or if I got this message over the phone (no internet in those days, remember), but I learned that they decided to drop it altogether. I was fully forgiven. I was free.
It was months or possibly even years later that I went back in my mind to that expression, which apparently is or was some sort of motto at BJU.
We don’t want to air our dirty laundry.
“Wait a minute,” I thought. “That wasn’t dirty laundry. It was clean laundry. It was washed. God forgave me. You forgave me. It wasn’t dirty anymore.”
We don’t want to air our dirty laundry.
Why don’t you want to air clean laundry? It smells fresh, washed with the pure water of the blood of Christ, blown by the wind of the Spirit, bathed in the Sunlight of the love of the Savior. These truths wouldn’t all have seemed quite this clear to me if I had stood up in faculty-staff meeting in 1987, but they became increasingly clear to me as the years passed.
I still do wrong, I still ongoingly seek forgiveness, I still even sometimes speak publicly about ways that I’ve stumbled, reparations for the past that I want to make.
But I see more clearly that dirty laundry is laundry that has never been washed. I pray that more and more people who claim the Name of Christ will want to air laundry that has been cleansed white and pure in His forgiveness, and the forgiveness of others.
I’m still praying for revival.
This is so lovely and so beautiful. And you are correct, confession is clean laundry! I am fascinated that I did not comprehend this before. The work is done in the heart, which is now clean, by the time the mouth opens to make confession. Sequencing this is such an eye opener. Lovely words here in this place, Rebecca.
Thank you, Shannon. Your encouragement means a lot to me.