Do you remember those books, “Choose Your Own Adventure”? They were books that put “you” as the main character and allowed you to make choices along the way that would determine the outcome. If you came to a door of a scary old house it would say “If you knock on the door turn to page 98. If you run home and hide under your bed turn to page 52.” I used to love to get those from the library and feel like I was really a part of the story. Plus, who wouldn’t love to opportunity to see how two choices play out and then choose the one with the happy ending? “You knock on the door and get eaten by a monster. The end.” Well, guess I’m turning back to page 52…
Choosing your own adventure is all fun when you’re a kid and it’s a fictional book, but things can get pretty dangerous when we try to manufacture the truth in our own lives.
Now I’m not trying to say that we have no choice in our story. Much of our life is determined by the choices we make or don’t make. No, what I’m talking about is what I consider to be one of the most dangerous human tendencies: Trying to create your own reality. You might call this self-deception, self-justification, or good old fashioned lying.
What comes to mind is the story of Aaron in the Old Testament. While Moses is away meeting with God and receiving instruction for how the people of Israel are supposed to live, the people complain to Aaron (Moses left him in charge) that Moses is surely never coming back because he’s been gone so long (Really? Apparently four hundred years waiting to be delivered from their Egyptian oppressors hadn’t taught them any patience). They ask Aaron to make a god for them that they may worship. Aaron complies without any resistance and makes a golden calf with his own two hands and some tools. When Moses gets back from the mountain (really ticked off), he asks Aaron what happened. Aaron says, “Uh, well, you were gone for quite a while…and you know these people are really evil people…they demanded a god so I told them to give me their gold…I threw it in the fire and…Bam! Out came this golden calf” (my paraphrase of course). Aaron thought it would really help the situation if he made his own story of what happened (for the real thing check out Exodus 32). Of course that didn’t work out too well.
But don’t we do the same thing? If someone honks at me in traffic I convince myself that it is because they are a jerk, not that I cut them off. We make mistakes but completely deny responsibility. We can spend so much time and energy trying to convince ourselves that what we have done isn’t wrong, when we deep down we know the truth.
Ultimately hiding the truth will do the same thing it did to the Israelites. At the very least it will make you sick (drinking water mixed with ground up gold dust), or at the very worst it will end up destroying you (lots of people died that day).
The Truth is a real thing. It isn’t something we can change at our own convenience. That’s why keeping yourself close to measured standards (friends who will hold you accountable, the Truth of the Bible to guide you) is so important. These are what keep us grounded. Without them we’d have ourselves convinced that the sky is green and down is up.