I know well the feeling of a guilty conscience. The nagging. The pressure. The inexorable tapping.There are many things that bring about a guilty conscience. An act of deliberate sin. A feeling that what I have done may not have been quite right. Sometimes it is only a subtle awareness that God may have something specific that he wants me to do, but I’m not sure what it is. And even if I did, would I want to do it?
Most the time when I get this feeling, I make myself busy. The dishes begin to look very dirty and my reason to read that book becomes very necessary. Even if I make myself sit and concentrate on what it is that is producing my guiltiness, my heart will not stop fluttering and I feel like my skin is crawling.
It reminds me of the cartoon character, trying to get away from his enemy, his legs spinning in circles, only to realize that his enemy has him pinned by his coattails and he hasn’t been going anywhere. I see myself as that cartoon, and I see God as my enemy, pinning me down as I struggle savagely to get away from him.
Recently I had another bout of guilty conscience. It was of the kind that I could not trace back to a sin, but was just a sense that I was not doing something that God wanted me to. Since I mentioned my habits earlier, you will not be surprised to hear that I went to Target. I wandered the aisles, looking careless and lazy to those watching me, I’m sure, but internally feeling like the pinned down cartoon. My mind and heart were racing, begging God to tell me what it was he wanted me to do, while simultaneously putting my fingers in my ears so that I could not hear his answer. But soon I had a pretty good idea of what it was I should be doing and finally concluded that it wasn’t worth it, gave up, and went home. I would do what he bloody wanted me to do.
Soon I found myself in the quiet of my apartment, sitting at my desk, about the business of “doing the will of God”. But it was still all wrong. I threw down my pen, leaned my head against the cool of the desk, and waited.
This is what I’m pretty sure God told me:
“I’m not calling you back to chastise you. I’m calling you back to love on you.”
And so I made the realization that a guilty conscience perhaps does not deserve the bad rep that I’d given it. God gives me that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach not because he’s punishing me, but rather, much like a pain sensory organ of the body, to let me know that I’ve forgotten God. And when I forget God, I forget how much he loves me, and when I forget how much he loves me, everything goes to pot.
I’m glad that my hand hurts when it touches the hot lid of my teapot. And now I’m glad that my conscience hurts whenever I forget the love of God. After all, it’s the only thing that takes away my guilt.