Sometimes, a guilty conscience can keep us from being in a right relationship with our Master.
Meet Miguel, my stepmom’s Beagle. He may be eight years old, but he’s still full of puppy-like energy and loves to play. He’ll actually run around in the yard and play ball all by himself. If I’m roughhousing with him, he’ll nip and bite, but he’s very gentle about it. He’s not much for playing fetch, though. Whenever someone comes home, he gets all excited and barks and howls until they come in. Whenever there’s a rabbit in the yard, he’ll chase it down until he either catches it or it gets away. One time, he actually got one.
When my dad and stepmom go out of town for the weekend, I’m on dog duty. Frankly, I’m totally okay with that. My stepmom may be almost constantly wondering how Miguel’s doing, but this picture sums up the majority of what he does. Even right now, he’s laying on his couch, eyes shut, snoozing the day away. He certainly lives a pretty relaxed life. This morning, however, he was far from relaxed. In fact, he was pretty scared to see me.
This morning, I woke up and the house was silent. As I came out into the hallway, I was not greeted by Miguel’s bright face and wagging tail, but rather a pile of fresh dog poop on the hardwood, right by the gate. I immediately picked up the mess and cleaned the floor, but still the dog did not come out to greet me. I called for him, but there was no response. Walking into the living room, what I saw broke my heart: Miguel was cowered up on his couch. As I went to say hello and pet him, he lowered his head and dropped his tail. He knew he had done wrong.
I led him into the kitchen, opened the screen door, and he slowly, quietly, sadly went outside. I’m not implying that dogs are self-aware (science proves otherwise), but this dog certainly had a guilty conscience about him. When I’d call him, he’d look at me, tuck his tail, and walk the other way. When I’d walk over to him, he’d sit down and lower his head in fear. I can only guess he thought I was going to punish him. But, knowing his first owner abused him, can I really blame him for showing that fearful response? As I sat on the grass by him and scratched his neck, I asked, “What am I going to do to show you that I still love you?”
Now, I’m not one to spiritualize everything, but I definitely saw a striking parallel in that moment between the relationship between Miguel and I and the relationship between myself and God. How often do I cower away from God after I sin because deep down, I’m afraid that He won’t love me? How often do I lower my head, tuck my tail, and walk away when God calls me to Himself after I’ve done something I shouldn’t? This dog was already experiencing punishment enough without my doing anything at all. I had already forgiven him. My goal was to show him that I still love him.
How often do I punish myself when God has already forgiven me? How often do I cower away from God in my moments of weakness when He is calling me to draw closer to Him? How often do I deny God’s love for me by my actions toward myself? How often do I let a guilty conscience keep me from being in a right relationship with my Master? I can only think of that which I have read about God in scripture.
Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus around 60 A.D.
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loves us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by Grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(Possibly Paul), writing to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us drawn near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
David, writing a prayer to God.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Sometimes, that’s just enough to get me by.