Friday, April 13, 2012

A Clear Conscience

"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men."
Acts 24:16 (KJV)

Regret is tormenting.
It is ugly.
It pushes the point of despair.
It gnaws and nags at the inmost the brink of a breakdown of will and resolve.
It preaches "no hope", and "all is lost", and "why go on?"

Throughout life, I have learned a few things.
One of them?  
Prevent regret.  
Whatever the cost.
Do what it takes.  Fix it now.

I knew the minute the words came out of my mouth.
I shouldn't have said it.
I saw her face.  Her disappointed, wishful look.
She was trying so hard to please.
I wasn't rude.  My tone was not unkind.  I didn't raise my voice.
In fact, I said it very quietly.
But, my words weren't necessary.  They did no good.  They didn't edify.  They didn't encourage.
Instead, they made her feel bad.

And even though I wasn't feeling well, she didn't know that.
Did Jesus feel well when He was beaten to a pulp?
Yet, He uttered no word of retort.
I was without excuse.

We were eating in a new restaurant...trying it out...getting a feel for whether we would like to come back.
The waitress was young and doing her utmost to make us happy and comfortable.
She was over-eager and visiting our table often.
Our food took what seemed like an unusually long time, but finally it came, and it looked delicious.  
There was a small mix-up, but nothing major.

She placed all of our plates on the crowded table, and it hit me that she hadn't brought my salad.
I mentioned it, and soon she returned, placing it in front of me.
"Is everything okay?"  she asked in her usual chipper tone.
I barely had room to move and enjoy my salad...the table could barely hold all of the plates, all at once.
I was kind of having to sit reach the yummy-looking salad plate.

Before I knew it, I said, "Well, I just wish they would have brought the salad out first."
"Oh.....I'm sorry" the spirit was knocked right out of her

Was it really that big a deal?
Did I absolutely have to eat the salad first?

Bless her little heart, she continued right on, being sweet, over-anxious to please, and accommodating through the entire remainder of the meal.

And I sat there and continued right on....feeling bad.....inside.

Why did I have to blurt that out?
I could have dealt with having my salad come out at the same time as my food....
without complaining about it.

It wasn't really all that important that our table was overloaded to the point of me having to reach a bit farther.  

At the end of the meal, the salt was poured....right into the open, gaping wound.  Inside my guilty heart.

"You know, since I did that....about your can have a dessert...any dessert you want...on the no charge.  Would that be okay?"
 Her sweet smile sent a dagger...all the way in.

Matching her sweetness, without missing a beat, I syrupily replied
"Oh, that is so kind of you!  You don't have to do that.  Really, it's okay."

"Oh, no, we want to.  We are going to do something for you to make up for that." she was sincere and genuine.  It didn't seem all.  "What would you like?"

"Welllll,  I don't eat sugar, but maybe one of them would like something." I said, as I pointed towards Kevin and Zach.
I was feeling worse by the minute.
Zachary's eyes lit up.
He and his Daddy had already been eyeing the triple-chocolate cake on the menu.
"Go ahead, Zach, you pick" I said.
How noble of me!  
It didn't take him long....looking up at her, he said, "We'll have the chocolate cake."

She looked delighted, and soon she returned, carrying a huge slice of chocolate cake, big enough for two, with chocolate frosting and little chocolate chips scattered over it.
There were two heaping mounds of whipped on each side.
"I made it for you, myself" she said, obviously proud that she had made up for her earlier mistake.

Okay, that was enough!

Either I was going to leave here feeling really horrible, it would nag at me all night, and I would carry the guilt for who knew how long.
I would eat the bitter-tasting humble pie that was placed in front of me, I would relish in its sweet aftertaste, and I would walk out a woman with a clear and peaceful conscience.

I made the best choice.

"I am sorry I said anything about the salad.  It wasn't your fault.  I shouldn't have said that.  I'm sorry."

There, I felt SO much better!

She looked surprised.  "Oh, it's okay.  You're fine." she was quick to forgive.

I paid for the check while Kevin and Zach looked around, and I left her a very nice tip.

My conscience didn't bother me again.....not after those two all-important words came out of my mouth.

Why are they so hard to say?
I'm sorry.
Why do we think it weakens us to utter them?

Isn't it better to say them...than have gnawing regret later on?
And while I may not ever see this waitress again, our paths may never re-cross, I did not want her to walk away from our encounter feeling like I had been unkind.

I just don't want to leave that kind of trail behind...if I can prevent it.

Oh, I don't know...maybe it doesn't seem like such a big deal.
But, if it wasn't, why did I feel so bad?

l think when God allows our conscience to be pricked like that, there is a reason for it.
Maybe He wants the person on the other end of the offense to see Jesus through our humility.

I didn't announce to her that I am a Christian.
So, it wasn't like I needed to defend my "profession" of being like Christ.
It was all a matter of conscience...and me leaving there with mine clear.

I have had enough of them to know that I do not like regrets.
I don't like feeling guilt.
I love the old French Proverb that says,
"There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience."

Such wise and true words.

As I walk this winding path called life, I will do my utmost to
prevent regrets....before they happen.
To correct them, as they do.

To go ahead and apologize when I mess up.
To not let it go...and fester...and become an unnecessary burden.
To go to bed every night with a clear conscience....or as the Apostle Paul worded it,
"to have a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men."

Another of my favorite quotes is this....
"By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach."

Some things are just better left the first place.
It's just better to go ahead and apologize for some words....after they're spoken.

A clear conscience is just that important.

Ephesians 4:26 says, "...let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

In my words, fix it before the sun sets.

Then if the sun doesn't come up tomorrow....
all will be well.

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