Out in our woods there is a huge tree that the boys use to play in. They nailed pieces of wood to the trunk, whose circumference is at least 8 feet, in order to climb up into it's fork where they tied a rope to swing from to the ground. Over the years the large branch grew around that rope. The tree was a stunning reminder of how time passes. You hardly see growth while it's happening, but go back after a few years and it is noticeable. In this case, it was undeniable.
This past weekend we had a severe thunderstorm accompanied by tornado warnings here on Braddock Mountain--a part of the Catoctin Mountains which are the foothills of the Appalachian. Ken was out looking for downed branches when he came across this....
...the boys' tree! You can see their swinging rope lying on the ground now. This is where the branch broke off...
A closer investigation revealed this....
It's obvious now how such a huge branch could break off from the base of such a large tree--there is a hole in the tree!
This reminds me of our conscience when we choose to ignore it. At first we may tell ourselves I will just allow this thing this one time. It may be a piece of cake when we've been trying to lose weight, a glass of beer when we're trying to stop drinking, keeping the too-much change returned, or a "small" lie in order to avoid a confrontation. That's how it starts. The next time, with a little more rationalization, we do it again....maybe this time a larger piece, a second drink, not reporting the undercharge for an item, a "bigger" lie. This is how searing the conscience happens. We do something we know is wrong, rationalize it or promise ourselves it won't happen again so we can have some peace with our thoughts, and eventually it becomes easier each time to do the thing, or justify it so we can do it again--each time upping the ante.
Then one day a storm blows through our lives and before we know, the huge hole in our conscience which has weakened us, allows our lives to topple. It's in the newspapers everyday--the adultery that ends a marriage and a career, the shady financial deal that ends in prison, the murder that is committed in a "fit of passion".
But it doesn't always take a huge storm. It can be by degrees. Once a tree is weakened it is more susceptible to disease that slowly destroys the life of the tree because the nutrients can't reach all the vital parts. In our lives, this happens as well. That's why scripture warns us to be careful, lest we fall.
When we ignore our conscience we will begin to feel guilty. Our guilt then causes us to find ways to deaden it. Some use alcohol and drugs. Others physical pleasure. Still others use depression. But God has provided the answer in his Son who provides the forgiveness we need in order to begin again.
Stop beating yourself up. That's not what God wants. He wants to forgive you. He has, in fact. You just need accept it (confess) and move on (repent) with His help (the Holy Spirit) to live a life free from self-serving sin.
Father, thank You for being patient--for waiting for me to come to the end of myself (time and again), so I can draw on Your Strength to do what is right.
Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/hebrews/10-22.htm
Take action: How to have a clear conscience