I've been thinking about conscience a lot lately. Conscience in the sense of that inner voice or feeling inside that tells us what's right and what's wrong. Unfortunately, I've gotten skilled at ignoring my inner voice in many areas of my life. Food temptations spring immediately to mind. Snarling at the kids rather than making the effort to stay calm and compassionate. Also avoiding tasks that I really don't want to do right now. Blogging, for example, or washing dishes, or putting down the book I'm reading. Lots of things like that. The problem is that the more I ignore my conscience, the easier it becomes to ignore it the next time. This bothers me, but too often I can't seem to help it.
I checked a book out at the library a couple of days ago called The 10 Second Rule: Just do the next thing you're reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do. This is a short book by a man named Clare De Graaf, who I was pleased to see lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's practically a neighbor. De Graaf suggests that we attune ourselves to the voice of our conscience, and follow what it says right away, before our minds have a chance to gear up and justify our way out of it. Why should we adopt the 10 Second Rule? De Graaf puts it concisely:
Christian character is shaped less by our big, dramatic decisions than by the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of obedience. Those small acts shape our character and prepare our hearts to accept more bold assignments from God. They are the building blocks for a life that God blesses.
The purpose of obeying the 10-Second Rule is to help us develop these habits of obedience, beginning with the small things...That's how we develop good habits. It's also how we break bad ones.
Today I have been practicing this Rule, and it has been very helpful. This blog post, the first in over five months, is one success. Normally whenever the impulse to sit down and write comes up, I let my mind convince me that it's really not a good time, as there's too much to do around the house, or I really don't feel like it right now, or any number of other excuses to stop me from being productive. Days, weeks, and months can go by with me sitting around telling myself I'll get to it some day.
Acting at once on the inner promptings of my conscience is a powerful way to begin to live my life according to God's will as much as I can. And I can look forward to more, as this practice moves outward from the personal toward more conscience-led "generosity nudges," or impulses to help or encourage other people. According to De Graaf:
When the Rule has become second nature---when you find yourself praying for, preparing for, and anticipating how God will use you---when you begin looking for more "neighbors" to help in unique ways---then the Rule has progressed, for you, from a rule of life to a lifestyle.