Before I got married I did not always wear my seatbelt. Just saying. I have no defense, not even the fact that when we were kids we would climb from the front seat to the back or vice versa, our mothers even guiding our projectile feet over the hump so they didn’t hit Dad’s head in mid-summersault. Let me go on record as saying seatbelts are a great improvement.
But in those days cars didn’t have seatbelts, and, of course, the other thing they didn’t have was an audible warning reminding you to wear them. To those of you who are not familiar with this sound because you dutifully buckle up before it has a chance to activate, it is an intermittent torment devised by a consultant paid to dream up noises that get under your skin and make you finally either comply or disable the system. I do not know how to disable the system.
There was one possibility Detroit did not think of: the endless capacity of the human heart to deaden its conscience. When my husband first moved here from Michigan and rode in my car, he said, “What’s that noise?” “Oh … that’s the seatbelt reminder,” I said, noticing it as he asked. And he had me harness myself at once. But before him, I had really gotten to the point where I did not notice the dinging more than one notices the hum of the refrigerator, or the furnace kicking on in a room.
It’s a bit scary, really. Ignoring seat belt reminders is one thing. But there are more serious kinds of brushing aside cautions and promptings. We are told that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in us is to prick our conscience. Jesus, meaning to comfort His disciples just before his departure, talked about all the advantages of the coming of the Holy Spirit:
“… it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment …” (John 16:8).
If every time the Holy Spirit pricks your conscience, or gives you a check in your spirit, you brush it aside like a pesky fly, you have spurned your “Helper” in the very ministry for which He was sent. And the result is that His voice will grow less and less audible, until finally you don’t hear it any more than you hear the hum of the refrigerator. The Bible calls this a “seared conscience” (1 Timothy 4:2):
“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear …” (Matthew 13:15).
The good news is that the reverse is also true: If we obey the Spirit’s promptings, we learn to hear Him better. That should be no surprise, for “He yearns jealously over the spirit he has made to dwell within us” (James 4:5).
The choice is ours. The Spirit beckons but does not force Himself upon us, anymore than a seatbelt does. He daily pleads:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).