Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, with hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience.
"Oh, look at that horse! I want it."
We were driving in the Black Hills a few miles from Mount Rushmore and my daughter, Elly, spotted a ranch that hosted trail rides.
"Which one?" I asked.
"The pinto. Can we buy it?"
"No, we can't afford to buy another horse. We're going to have to steal it."
"Easy," I told her. "We slip into the stable around midnight when no one's around."
"But how will we get her home?"
"We'll tie her halter to the back of our van and she can trot behind us back to Montana."
When we reached Mount Rushmore I walked into the visitor center to ask if there were any open campgrounds in the area. The man behind the counter said, "Yes, just a few miles west of here is a campground I think you'll like. It's called Horsethief Lake."
Later on our trip, we spent a night in Medora in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I started reading an account Roosevelt wrote in 1886 about chasing thieves who stole his boat. The men they chased, Roosevelt wrote, were also suspected of the "worst of frontier crimes, horse-stealing."
Even though we were only joking about stealing a horse, reminders of our imaginary crime began popping up everywhere. If this happens in an innocuous situation, how much more ominous is it when we have a guilty conscience?
Guilt is a good emotion -- just as pain is a good sensation. Neither are pleasant, of course. But if you accidentally lay your hand on a hot stove, pain screams "Hey! That's not such a good idea!" Pain watches over you to protect you from serious damage.
In the same way, guilt sets off alarms to warn us when our soul is in danger.
My natural impulse when I have a guilty conscience, however, is to run in the wrong direction. When I do wrong, I know God disapproves. So, instead of moving away from the guilt, I move away from God.
But when we've messed up, the Bible urges us to draw closer to God. We can't erase our guilt, but our heavenly Father can. If we see him carrying a bucket, it's not because he intends to slap us on the side of the head with it. The bucket's full of water because he intends to wash us clean. He wants to forgive our sin and remove the guilt.
The secret to being a would-be horse thief is knowing which way to run.
(copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)