had trash duty.
Like other boys learning the
importance of responsibility, I had chores. Not a lot to ask in
exchange for a roof over my head, food on the table, and parents who
I figured the quicker I emptied
the various trash cans throughout my home, the quicker I could get back
to reading my favorite book. After all, it took only about five minutes
to empty the cans, put a new white liner in the kitchen can, and carry
out my assortment of empty cereal boxes, vegetable peels, and old
newspapers to the large bin in my Tampa, Florida, neighborhood.
I think my mind was wandering.
Possibly I was daydreaming. Maybe I wasn’t thinking about much of
anything. But I snapped back to reality when I looked down into one of
my appointed stops on the trash train and saw a T-shirt of mine.
That’s weird. It’s
not stained. It’s not too small. Why is this in the trash?
I liked that T-shirt. So I
devised a plan.
Looking to my right and then to
my left, I fished my shirt out of the trash without anyone the wiser.
It was an act of desperation. Then, after emptying all of the
household’s trash, I simply placed the shirt back in the same trash
Frankly, my plan wasn’t terribly
advanced. In my nine-year-old brain, perhaps I would sneak the shirt
back out of the trash into the bottom of my sock drawer and from there
into my bag for my next overnight visit at my grandparent’s house.
Pretty elaborate. Pretty ridiculous.
Whatever my vision was, it never
came to pass. Mom intervened.
“Samuel.” Her stern voice made
me want to cower. “Did you empty out the trash?”
“Yes.” I hoped she couldn’t
detect the quiver in my voice.
“All of it?”
“Ah . . . yes.” My answer
didn’t convince even me.
“Really? Then what’s this?”
There, hanging on the end of her slender index finger was the one thing
I hoped she wasn’t holding: my T-shirt.
Oh boy! This isn’t
good. On a scale of one to ten (one being not surprised and
ten being shocked), I was about an eight. Not sure why I was that
surprised. After all, I had put the T-shirt back in the bottom of the
trash can—in plain view—unobstructed by anything.
I guess it was the confrontation
that surprised me and that my mom had caught me in a lie. Worse yet,
there would be inescapable punishment. There were consequences to lying
in the Collins house.
In that split second, I had been
put to the test and failed. Now, technically, I rationalized that I had
indeed emptied all the trash. That part was true. What wasn’t true was
that I had held back the T-shirt.
In a way, my sin is like
Ananias’s, the friend of Jesus’ disciples in Acts 5. He and his wife,
Sapphira, had sold a piece of property. They decided to keep some of
the money for themselves and give the majority of it for the ministry.
Everything was fine. But then Ananias lied. He claimed that he gave
every penny to the ministry. In the blink of an eye, God killed him.
I’m glad that God had more
patience with me.
Today, at age thirteen, I asked
my mother about the T-shirt incident. I never have known why that
T-shirt was in the trash.
didn’t pull any punches.
“Sam, when you were smaller, I used to set you up to see what you and
your sister Katie would do when faced with temptation.”
“You mean, you weren’t really
throwing my T-shirt away?”
“Not at all. I was testing your
character. That’s what parents are supposed to do. And you failed the
if I had asked you why the T-shirt was in the trash, or if I had gotten
it out and brought it to you, you would have let me keep it?”
“Absolutely!” she said without
missing a beat.
“But since I lied about it, you
really did throw that T-shirt away?”
“You got it. Your father and I
wanted to raise you to understand that you need to obey, no matter
what. God has entrusted your care to us. He has given us His authority
to raise you to serve Him and to honor Him. We want your first desire
to please God, even if it seems difficult or it’s hard. God asks us to
be obedient in the little things. If we can’t succeed in obeying in the
little things, then we can’t be successful in the bigger things He
wants us to do.”
After I was disciplined, my
mother shared a New Testament verse with me. “No temptation has
overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He
will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are
tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1
Cor. 10:13 NIV). My way out was to simply be honest. All I needed to
have done was talk to my mother about the T-shirt in the trash and
everything would have been fine.
She’s right. And, more
important, God’s right.
If I’m going to follow in my
grandfather’s footsteps and become an airplane mechanic, I need to be
able to tell the truth. I need to be a man of principle because I serve
a God of principle. Whether I’m repairing planes for the Air Force or
for the commercial airlines, I hope to be responsible for the lives of
hundreds of people. If I try to cut corners to save money or because
I’m lazy, one of the engines might break down and a plane could crash.
That is truly a big thing. And I would have failed God.
Better to learn my lesson
now—caught in a fib at the age of nine—than to watch on the news when
I’m forty-two and learn that one of my planes went down because of my
faulty repair job.
My question for you is simple:
Will you pass your next T-shirt test?