When Life Action’s church event arrived in his Texas church, Rick Lawson had no idea what God had in store for him. “I was an engineering supervisor with one of the largest defense contractors for the U.S. government. In that role, I had top-level security clearance,” Rick explains.
“During revival meetings at my church, God began to convict me about being dishonest years earlier when I had filled out my security clearance forms.”
Rick had falsely checked “No” regarding pre-application drug use. “I had used drugs repeatedly while I was in college and on a few isolated occasions after that. I thought that if I told the truth on the application, I probably wouldn’t get the job. So I lied.”
That lie went unchallenged and without consequence—until he heard a preacher discussing the importance of a clear conscience. “On Sunday morning he addressed the issue of pride, and that evening he explained what it means to have a clear conscience,” Rick remembers.
Reflecting on what areas of his life might need change, the security application came to mind almost immediately. “The form made it clear that any willful false statement could result in ‘imprisonment of up to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.’” Rick thought that if he came clean, he would lose his job and possibly wind up in prison.
“My wife missed the clear conscience sermon, so I had to summarize it for her when I got home. Then I had to tell her about my security clearance problem. She was stunned.
“As I went to bed the next couple of nights, I lay awake thinking about the rich young ruler, the one who was not willing to obey Jesus. I kept thinking about that, even trying to negotiate or justify something else I could do to appease my conscience. I had so much joy from my new obedience to God, but I knew that if I refused to obey, that joy would be gone.”
Rick decided that obedience to God meant more than his job or even his freedom. He resubmitted his security paperwork, expecting the worst. “I told them I had recently surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. When I did, He had shown me how wrong it was for me to have lied on my clearance forms. I asked them to forgive me and told them how sorry I was that I had lied. I can still remember walking down the hall with that envelope in my hand. Satan kept harassing me, telling me that I was blowing my job and life for nothing.
“About a week later my boss took my security badge away, informing me that the government would be investigating my case.” Rick was still allowed to work as a supervisor, but he wasn’t allowed in the facility, which meant he worked at a remote office or a desk moved to a hallway close to the entrance of the facility.
Co-workers knew that his security clearance had been suspended, but they didn’t know why. That gave Rick an interesting opportunity to share his situation, and therefore his faith. “I ended up having to talk to them individually. I was very clear and honest; after all, I’d already been convicted of lying! I was so conscious of my dependence on God, and I let people know that.”
Four months went by, and no word on the security clearance was forthcoming. “My wife and I were expecting that I’d have to go to jail. I went to work each morning knowing that I could be escorted out in handcuffs.”
Finally, the investigators called Rick for an interview. They had him write out his story by hand, and he was asked to explain what happened at his church that made him confess his deception. “After they left, I waited for another five months before I heard anything further. Then one morning my boss said, ‘I’ve got bad news for you. Let’s meet in my office after lunch.’
“None of this was playing out as I had expected, but I was still prepared for anything. I went to my boss’s office at one o’clock. Just as I entered his room, the phone on his desk rang. He answered and spoke briefly, then hung up. He had brought me into his office to inform me he could wait no longer for the results of my clearance investigation and would have to reassign me to another area. However, that phone call was from the Security Department, informing him that my clearance had been reinstated.”
Rick could sense God’s miraculous power at work, not only from the timing of the phone call, but in light of the fact that many security concerns like his are never resolved in this manner. The level of clearance Rick had received was only the first step in getting back onto the classified project. The Navy also had to reinstate his access. The Navy contacted the company two months later, denying his access to the project. The timing of this news coincided with the beginning of an unclassified F-16 project, to which he was transferred.
A short time after Rick’s transfer, the funding was cut for his previous project, and 3,500 engineers were laid off in a single day. “I had been certain that telling the truth would cost me my job and probably send me to jail, but the Lord used it to put me in a place of safety—a different project!”
The effects of Rick’s obedience went further. “My oldest daughter (then five years old) heard about my situation. One night at dinner she said, ‘Daddy, would you tell me about Jesus?’ She later said, ‘I could tell how much Dad needed Jesus. He was a liar, and I’m a liar too.’ Years later, the story led to my younger son’s profession of faith as well.”
Rick’s journey toward a clear conscience didn’t end there. He also had to confess to his company that he had lied on expense reports. He admits that these confessions (small and large) aren’t easy, but he encourages others to come clean as well.
“Being now years on the other side of a big decision like this, I have to say that it is worth having a clear conscience . Nothing is worth losing your fellowship with God. If you need to clear your conscience, go with humility; be completely honest, realize that you deserve consequences because of your behavior, and throw yourself on the person’s mercy. You just have to resign yourself that you’re going to obey the Lord regardless of the outcome.”