We were so excited. We had been planning our Sabbatical for years. Three months off work. Three months- that is fourteen weeks! As a founding pastor of eight years my entire family was ready to get away, reconnect and rest. The plan was to spend the first month at home decompressing and then to head to Hawaii for two months. I know- it sounds insane. It looks insane here on the screen after I have just written it. Two months in Hawaii. A dear friend on the island was up for the adventure of a house/car swap, so we got things in order and simultaneously jumped.
Packing for an eight week trip was challenging for a family of five- especially considering the fact that Hawaiian airlines charges extra for every bag you pack. Clothes is one thing- I wasn’t planning on wearing more than a pair of trunks and some sandals for the next eight weeks anyway. Clothing Smothing. I focused my attention on what mattered. Surfboards.
There were big questions to resolve here. How many boards can we bring? Which boards do we bring? Now that both of my older sons surf with me- whose boards do we bring? And of course- How many can we fit in that bag?! Hawaiian’s policy, which I meticulously researched, clearly states that each surfboard travel bag will be charged an additional $100 each way and may hold a maximum of two boards.
$100 each way?!! Two boards maximum?!! Restricting to say the least.
I did more research. I called around. I consulted with friends who travel with boards more regularly. It seemed I had several options. Stick to two boards and give in to the man or pack a third and roll the dice. One friend said, “It is more of a guideline, they never ask. If they do- just smile and wave. It’s not a big deal.”
So my oldest son, Kaleb, and I meticulously chose three boards and packed them well. We arrived at LAX before 5am and joined a large crowd shuffling into line to check our baggage. While I gauged the situation, Kaleb appointed himself guardian of his surfboard bag- after all this was his first surf trip. He was literally attached to the front of the bag like an appendage. Hawaiian was set up with the kind of self-checkin kiosks where you self-report luggage, attach your own luggage tags, and then drop your own oversize luggage down the hall. This was going to be a breeze…until she saw us.
She was a late middle aged Hawaiian woman working the check-in crowd. This was clearly an employee of Hawaiian airlines who was good at what she did and who took her job very seriously. As I finally reached the check-in kiosk, she took notice of us. And she yelled out to us across a significant crowd, “Excuse me sir! How many boards do you have in that bag?”
Trouble. “Smile and wave” he said.
I pretended that I couldn’t hear her and replied, “Yes!” with a big smile and a thumbs up. Reaching for the kiosk, I was frivolously typing. I thought, “just get the numbers in and swipe that card.”
She was coming my way.
More loudly, “Excuse me sir! How many boards are in your bag?”
“Yes, I do have a bag!” Smile. Wave. Type.
Again, “How many boards are in your bag?” Closer.
“Huh?” Almost done.
And then I looked up and she was there. Right there! And the question changed.
“Sir, do you have two boards in that bag?”
This was different. It was direct. It was straight-forward. It was a moment. A decision.
I looked down and Kaleb was guarding the nose of the bag. My middle son, Brady, was at the tail. My four year old, Carter-boy, was standing at my feet. Jen was right next to me. The crowd had diverted their attention towards my family for the moment.
I was faced with a choice- do I double down and lie to this woman directly in front of my family or do I own it and tell her the truth? Well- one thing Wood’s aren’t is quitters. So I doubled down…and lied. A bold-faced lied. In front of my family.
“Two,” I said.
Kaleb looked up and yelled out, “What?! Dad! You left my board?!”
I said, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh” with a finger over my pursed lips just three feet from her.
She reached for the zipper of the bag and proceeded to open it up in front of everyone and count the boards…out loud…for everyone to hear.
She felt around because I sort of hid the small one in the padding.
“Three. Sir, you have three boards in your bag. You lied.”
“Yes.” I said with a deep sigh. Kaleb looked at me, wide eyed but didn’t say a word.
She reached across me and took over the controls of the kiosk and where it said surfboard bag-1, she changed it to two and double charged me. $200.
She then decided to stick with us and be our personal escort through the rest of the line to insure I felt the full weight of my shame.
What a start to a pastor’s Sabbatical. I lied to save $100. I lied in front of my three young sons and my wife and as it turned out, a pretty good sized crowd. I lost my integrity. I compromised my character. It was bad enough that Jen didn’t say a word. Not one. And if you know us- we are talkers. I sank pretty low. I felt like a failure as a Father, a husband, a pastor, and as a self-proclaiming follower of Jesus. I carried it deeply.
We made it to Hawaii and I didn’t say a word either. About one week in, Jen brought it up.
“So, the surfboards huh?”
“Too soon, babe. Too soon.”
We laughed and it helped. I knew I had to sit the boys down and talk it through.
So, roughly three weeks into our trip, I finally sat the older boys down and told them I needed to talk to them about something. They thought they were in trouble and were nervous. However, they were pleasantly surprised to discover that is was me who was in trouble, not them.
I reminded them of what happened in the airport and then looked them directly in the eyes and told them that I lied to save a hundred dollars and that I lost my integrity and my character and I let them down and that I was sorry. I said that is not how followers of Jesus or Woods act. I confessed to my eight and nine year old sons. I didn’t pull a single punch. I began to cry and then they began to cry and then we held each other as they escalated to a sob. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Ugh. It was terrible.
Then, Kaleb said, “I just feel so terrible. I feel so bad for you. Dad, God forgives us. That is what Jesus is about. Let’s pray and ask God to forgive you.” And then he put a hand on my shoulder and prayed out for me a prayer of forgiveness. That’s right- my nine year old led me through a prayer of forgiveness.
And then he looked at me and said, “I feel bad for you dad. But you know what- you are lucky. You are lucky you got caught. Because it is way worse when you get away with it and you have to carry that.” HE SAID THAT. Later he told Jen, “I feel bad for dad. But he is going to be all right.” And he was right.
I learned some things that day:
1- It Is Never Worth It To Lose Your Character or Integrity.
A clean heart is a precious thing. We can mince words here and say, “Integrity is a strong word for that- it was more of a mistake, or a little lie or a whatever.” But integrity is simply being who you say you are- being connected to and living from your true self.
A clean heart is critical to a life of integrity and a life following Jesus.
What is it worth to you to compromise this? You could put a cost on it.
At what cost do you or would you sell out? We now know that for me it is $100. Yikes!
What is your cost? Where is it happening?
Is it business, finance, relationships, or something else?
It will block your well. Are you disconnected from yourself, your true identity, or the empowering Spirit of the Living God as a result?
2- If You Do, You Have to Confess It Or It Will Block Up Your Well.
When you do compromise your integrity and character- confess it and do it quickly. One of our greatest skills needs to become identifying and quickly dealing with things that block us from living into and from our true selves. If you hold on to that stuff, it is toxic and it will block your well. It isn’t worth it. Internally, I lost three weeks to that moment.
Confess it- to God, to a friend, to a spouse. Just do it. And release it.
When we allow the junk in our hearts and lives to stay it gets used against us and we end up weaving false narratives and lies about who we are and the way the world works. It poisons the well. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You can be forgiven and set free. Read 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 4:16. Confess it and release it!
A clean heart is critical if we are to experience the joy of being a healthy, whole, connected, and filled follower of Jesus. It’s possible. What work do you need to do?
3- If You Have Kids, Own It And Don’t Pull The Punches.
Our kids have a finely tuned BS meter. They know. If you blow it in front of them- yelling, anger, dishonesty, projecting your stress and anxiety on them, or whatever it is- just own it and tell them. Obviously be age appropriate, depending on your situation. But own it. Name it. Lying. Anger. Yelling… I blew it. Apologize. Look them in the eye. Pray together.
They are more resilient than you realize. They can take it. They know anyway. And it will teach them volumes more than your verbal lessons or perceived perfection ever could.
And one more thing- Hawaiian airlines is serious about their two board maximum per bag policy. You have been warned.