“This Is Not An Excuse!” (Proverbs 20:14)

It was a great science project! I planned to observe and document the life cycle of the common housefly. I would photograph the daily changes after the flies laid their eggs, developed into maggots, then became adult flies. My poster board would detail the life cycle changes. All I needed was the bait and I had the perfect source. I would open a can of cat food and leave it out. I had previously observed maggots feeding on old food and knew this would work. 


When I was in 6th grade, I began my first of many science projects. Confident of my success, I opened the can of cat food and left it out in the hot humid climate of Hawaii. The flies swarmed around their buffet and within a few days, as predicted, the maggots appeared. I was excited and took photographs of the maggots, eager to see them evolve into flies. It would be another two weeks before the flies appeared and I began to carefully record my observations. Another two days passed and I was pleased by the growth of the maggots. This is going to be a great project, I thought.


On day three, I returned to the can of maggots and to my horror, discovered it empty. No, I thought! The maggots could not have turned into flies, it was too soon! I thought the can may have overturned and the maggots and food spilled out, but that hypothesis led a dead end. The answer was staring at me as she licked her paws. My cat ate my homework! Horrified, I knew it was too late to restart the project. I thought of excuses but realized that I needed to confess and tell my teacher the truth, even though it sounded like a flimsy excuse. The next morning, I confessed to my teacher what happened. 


“This is not an excuse! I promise!” I pleaded with my science teacher.


She looked at me and smiled warmly with empathy. “I believe you. Tell you what. Why don’t you use the photographs you have and then document what actually happened.”


I looked at my teacher in surprise. “You mean, you want me to tell everyone that my cat ate the project?”


“Yes, “ she laughed. 


I obeyed my teacher’s instructions and turned in my project and to my complete surprise and elation, I received an “A”. Oh, how I miss the simple innocence of youth and elementary school!


Most of us have heard of the well-worn excuse that the dog or cat ate my homework, but in my case, it really did happen. Thankfully, my teacher believed me, no doubt because I did not have a history of excuses for not completing my homework assignments. Aesop’s fable of “The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf” ends with the moral, “Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.” The lesson echoes a similar sentiment recorded in the Book of Proverbs.


“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer– then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

Proverbs 20:14 (NIV)

There are so many profound life lessons wrapped up in this simple childhood experience. I should have known better to leave a can of cat food in an area where my cat could find it. Thankfully, a good outcome resulted. However, errors in judgment that I commit as an adult are not always easily embraced or overlooked and the consequences are often severe. On more than one occasion, I have been tempted to give an excuse or place the blame on others or external circumstances to maneuver for a better deal or outcome. Years of trials and tribulations have worn down my resolve and I am no different than the unscrupulous buyer. 


We use excuses to defend and justify our actions, lessening or diverting the blame from ourselves. The simple innocence of youth is a longing we all have because it points to the childlike faith that Jesus Christ asks of His followers. We can be completely honest before Him. Nothing we can ever do or say will ever surprise Him; He knows it before we even thought of the action.


What a comfort it is to be able to confess and repent of our sins to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. No more excuses! Only forgiveness. 


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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