I got the scare of my life this week. With the time change it was dark when I came out of the church. I attempted to get into my car. I was not even thinking when I reached for the door handle. As I touched the handle an alarm rang out and the headlights began flashing. I have to tell you that I nearly fell over my own two feet trying to get out of the way. As I got my wits about me, I looked at the car, parked in my usual spot close to the door. I couldn’t quite process what was happening.

Had someone played a trick on me while I was inside at the meeting? I looked at the car. It was my Toyota Prius. It was parked in my spot. The alarm kept blaring away. I suddenly became embarrassed that someone might come out and “catch me” trying to break into my own car! I was dumbfounded. What was going on? What happened to my car? Who would do such a thing? How was I going to get the car to stop honking and flashing?

When the alarm stopped a few minutes later, I noticed that the license plate on this Prius was different from mine. IT WASN’T MY CAR AFTER ALL! It was the same year, and looked like the same color in the dark. I felt so foolish. With whatever decorum I had left, I walked around the back of the car and noticed that my real car was actually parked three spaces down. Much to my relief no one had “seen me” falling all over myself with the look of cluelessness on my face.

I opened my car door, got in and drove away. Only as I left the parking lot did I realize how quickly my heart had been beating. As I was driving away a funny thought hit me. Wouldn’t it be neat if every time we were going to do something wrong, an alarm went off to alert us. It would save us a lot of trouble and needless pain and embarrassment. Suddenly it dawned on me that most of us already have a built-in alarm system. It is called the conscience.

We don’t talk about the conscience much any more. When I was younger it was just assumed that the conscience was in place to help us know right from wrong. Through the training of our parents and other societal influences, like the church and the government, we developed a conscience, which alerted us when we were going to do something that was wrong, foolish, or simply would cause us pain.

I liken the conscience to that still small voice of God. I still hear mine speaking when I am tempted to stray. Do you hear yours? Society today has pretty much taken away all of the rules when it comes to conscience. Society has eroded all the absolutes so that there are no actual rights and wrongs anymore. There are only degrees of relativity. We adopted the slogan, “If it feels right for you, then go ahead and do it.” Therefore our consciences have become confused.

As a result many of us have fallen victim to doing things that actually cause us more pain than gain. And somewhere along the way, we wish that someone had set off that alarm and warned us that we were wandering into foreign territory. But the good news is that the alarm is still there. We just haven’t been listening to it. Like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to guide us through life. If we seek the presence of God, the Holy Spirit will come to us and help us choose the correct path.

The Spirit is there to help us make the right decisions and warn us when we are straying from God’s path. It gently nudges us back onto the way of truth. Are you listening to it? I sure am. And to think it took a car alarm to remind me that God is always watching out for me.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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