“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was the last fire we needed to build?” my wife asked me last week when the temperature plunged below freezing. The damp chilly breeze made it feel even colder. I love soaking in the radiant heat from a crackling fire. My wife, on the other hand, would much rather be warmed by soaking in the sun on a warm Florida beach.
Low temperatures and damp darkness are not the only things that make one shiver. Putting the mouth in motion before engaging the brain can lead to the same result. “Why did I say that? I know better!” Giving in to the compulsion to punch someone, send an email that will stab a friend in the back, or eat an item high in sugar or fat when you have diabetes or high cholesterol can cause a shiver to run up the spine after the initial satisfaction from giving in to the compulsion has faded. The Bible calls it sin.
Guilt often accompanies an indiscretion. Of course, overtime the same action may not cause a response of guilt. That realization may bring relief or horror that the conscience has become so desensitized. It is easy to say we’ve just wised up, but our heart is not dissuaded. A fleeting pain of guilt confirms what we did was wrong and our mind acknowledges we may have opened the door to pain physically, relationally, emotionally, vocationally, or spiritually.
As an older Boy Scout I was honored when my scoutmaster told me to stay behind in camp to watch the fire. The wind was gusty and he didn’t want to take a chance the fire would set the pasture on fire even though the tarp was securely staked and a broad fire circle surrounded the small fire. I did not realize I couldn’t see the fire while chopping wood because of the truck between us. That inability kept me from realizing the wind had knocked down the brand new tarp which fell on top of the fire and the fire circle. The fire raced across the canvas and onto the dry grass in the field beyond.
The wrong doing was not intentional. Sin often isn’t. The result and ensuing guilt from failure was not ethereal. I writhed in anguish waiting for the scoutmaster to return. I knew I would have to face the music. Astonishment, relief, and peace came wave after wave when he didn’t condemn, but said he was sure I had learned from the experience. That is known as mercy; not receiving what is deserved. His continued trust and friendship was a blessing commonly referred to as grace; receiving what is not earned or deserved.
The days of Lent, a time of preparing for Easter, are drawing to a close. God’s mercy and grace call all to cease waiting to “face the music”. It calls everyone to acknowledge their wrong doing and choose to turn around in order to follow Jesus Christ instead of run from Him. The experience is not only a relief. It is exhilarating. Do you know what I mean?