When a Good Kid Gets Caught, Part 5
A Matter of Conscience
by Greg Wright

Commander Dave's car roared loudly, as he pulled out of his driveway. Buzzy loved that sound. Although to his father it meant he would eventually have to replace a muffler, to Buzzy it was like riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle. All his friends recognized that roar. But Commander Dave was also roaring, roaring on the inside. He truly hated having to return to work to fix computer problems when he would rather be getting ready for bed. When he was a young boy, deciding what we wanted to do for a living, he read that systems analysts worked 40-45 hours a week, during the day. Now, as a senior systems analyst, he wondered how he wound up having to go in, late at night several times a month, to fix computer problems. His under-inflated tires squealed as he abruptly backed out of his gravel driveway onto the highway.

Soon after Commander Dave drove away, Buzzy made himself ready for bed. Alone, with the lights out, he looked towards his window where the full moon could be seen over the trees. "I wonder if Chad will remember to come at eleven," he thought.

"What am I going to do when he does come?" He fretted. "What am I going to tell him?"

"Dear Jesus," he prayed, "There is something I want to do, something that I know my parents wouldn't approve. But, since they never told me not to do it, would doing it make me disobedient? "

Buzzy tried to remember the relevant sections of the Royal Ranger Code; "A Royal Ranger is obedient. He obeys his parents, leaders, and those in authority."

Then he struggled to remember the Ten Commandments, "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."

"I wonder if honoring my parents goes deeper than just obeying their explicit commands. What is honor, anyway? Giving praise by showing appreciation, I guess that's one kind of honor. What else is there? I should respect them. Perhaps I do this when I talk politely to them, saying mam and sir, looking at them when they talk to me, verbally acknowledging their commands, and always answering gently. Sometimes I really mess up on this one, however, especially if I'm in a hurry or irritated. What else could there be? I wonder if honoring my parents includes anticipating how they would respond to things that they haven't directly forbidden. Sneaking out of the house seems dishonest, although I'm not sure why. Are there certain things that I should avoid doing, just because I know how my parents would respond if they caught me? Hmm, maybe that's why my conscience is going in a tail spin."

"Hey Buzzy, are you awake?" Buzzy heard Chad below his window. "Come on, the guys are waiting."

Buzzy struggled to open the window. It had a wooden frame, and due to all the moisture in the air, the frame had swollen, making it stick. Buzzy tried to free the window by tapping around the frame with his stapler, the closest thing he had to a hammer. Finally working it loose, Buzzy called down. "I'm not going; go on without me."

Chad, already irritated that Buzzy had made him wait, called up. "Come on Buzzy, the guys are going to be angry if you don't come, especially after I've made them sit in the car this long. I was counting on you. Trust me, I do this all the time."

"I can't go; it would be dishonoring my parents."

"Buzzy, I thought we talked about this. You would not be disobeying your parents."

"Chad, I think honor means more than just obedience."

"Oh yeah, what else does it mean? Where do you find this in the Bible?"

Buzzy's mind went blank. "Surely there is a verse somewhere," he thought. But, then he remembered the lesson from the devotion his father had given that night. "Chad, I'm not going because it just doesn't feel right. My conscience says it's wrong."

Chad mocked. "Your conscience says it's wrong? Your conscience is just the result of too many Sunday School lessons and too many rules. Trust your mind; your conscience will trip you up."

"Chad," Buzzy countered, "God gave us a conscience so that we could make good decisions, even when our minds were fuzzy. If my conscience says it's wrong, I need to obey my conscience. Further, since the conscience is above reason, I don't have to explain it to you. So, if you don't mind, or even if you do mind, I'm going back to bed."

"You're just chicken!" Chad retorted. "You're just afraid of getting caught. I thought you had spunk. I thought you were braver than this."

"Sometimes, fear can be a very sensible thing to have. Later dude!" Buzzy slammed the window shut. "Oops," Buzzy thought out loud, as he checked for broken glass, "the window certainly closes more easily than it opens."

Hot with rage, Chad picked up a rock to throw, but upon hearing the blaring car horn of his companions, he dropped it. His firm steps left deep footprints in the wet ground, as he angrily stomped across the woods to the back road where his friends were waiting.

Buzzy looked soberly at the footprints, glad that he had chosen not to walk in them. Then, he remembered the passage from Psalm 1, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked."

Confident and pleased that he had made the right decision, Buzzy quickly fell asleep.

Meanwhile, Tommy Meadows was still blowing his horn when Chad returned. "It took you long enough. Well, where is the little brat?" Tommy asked, angrily.

"The brat chickened out," Chad responded.

"I knew he would. Now, I'm going to have to drive faster so that we won't be late. We've got babes coming to the party. We don't want to keep them waiting. You'd better hold on tight."

Rocks flew in the air, as Tommy pealed out of the gravel lane, back onto the main road.

"Hey Chad, have a puff," Tommy's friend Blake offered, holding out a small cigarette.

"I don't smoke," Chad responded.

"Not that kind of smoke," Blake laughed, "this is the good stuff."

"Oh okay, I'll try it." Chad tried to push aside all memory of his commander's warnings against using illegal drugs. Not knowing what to expect, he coughed and handed the cigarette back to Blake.

"Don't worry, you'll get used to it," said Blake, encouragingly. "Here, try some of this." Blake handed him a can of bear.

Chad had just opened the beer when Tommy took a curve so abruptly that it sent Chad sailing across the back seat, making him spill some of the beer on his clothes.

"You'd better put your seat belt on; I'd hate for you to go sailing out the window," Tommy laughed.

While putting on his seat belt, Chad watched nervously as Tommy continued to cross over the center yellow line. One driver that they had narrowly missed slammed on his brakes and blew his horn angrily. Blake threw a wine bottle and smashed it against the car, as Tommy sped away.

Tommy was already going 20 miles over the speed limit when his car reached the top of a steep hill. Chad almost lost his stomach when he saw a vehicle in Tommy's lane heading straight for him."

"He's in your lane!" Chad screamed.

Tommy swerved to the right and slammed on his brakes. He missed the car, but his own car spun wildly in circles. Chad remembered seeing a telephone pole go by his window five times, all the while thinking, "tonight we're going to die."

When, the car finally stopped moving, Blake breathed a sigh of relief. "That was great, Tommy. Can you do that again?"

Chad opened his door and stumbled outside the car. Blake called after him. "What's the matter man, are you going to throw up?"

"No guys," Chad responded, "I'm going to work on my hiking merit. You all go on without me."

"You don't want us to leave you out here, do you? Come on back, we were just having a little fun," Tommy pleaded.

Chad ignored him and walked away. "Forget him," said Blake, "the girls are waiting, remember? Some guys don't know how to have a good time." Reluctantly, Tommy drove on.

Several miles away, Commander Dave was making progress on his computer problem. A crucial file for the nightly production run had gotten corrupted, due to the crashing of a disk drive. However, the operators had already restored the files from a backup, and because the failure had occurred early during the nightly process, not much time had been lost. It was a light night for orders, anyway. His work finished, Commander Dave headed for home. He looked disapprovingly as he saw a young man slowly walking along the highway. Then, just as he passed him, he recognized him as Chad. Pulling over to the side, he waited for Chad to catch up to him.

Commander Dave rolled down his window. "Isn't this a little past your bedtime," he frowned.

"Would you give me a lift?" Chad asked, hopefully.

"I'll take you home, if that's what you mean. Get in," he said, commandingly.

"Should I even bother asking what you're doing out on the road at this hour?" Commander Dave continued.

"There's not much to say. I was out with some guys; they were driving too fast and acting crazy; and I decided that it was safer to walk."

"Well, you certainly made the right decision in getting out of the car. Do your parents know you are out here?"

"What do you think?" He mocked. "Are you going to tell them?"

"Your dad is grouchy enough during the day. I certainly don't want to deal with him at four o'clock in the morning. But you need to tell him."

"Yeah, when frogs fly," Chad sneered.

"Chad, have you forgotten everything you were taught? If you keep looking for trouble, you're going to find it. When was the last time you read your bible? When was the last time you prayed? How do you think God feels about what you are doing, now?"

"I'm sure God is in bed, asleep," Chad yawned. "Can you lay off the lecture; it is late."

Commander Dave took long deep breaths as he tried to control his temper. "Chad, how long are you going to live?"

"Long enough to survive another one of your lectures, I hope," he sneered.

Suddenly, Commander Dave had to slow down. There was a long line of cars ahead, and no one was moving.

"Oh no," Commander Dave moaned, "donít tell me the construction crews have already started working at this hour?"

The shrill sound of an ambulance answered his question. Some of the drivers up ahead were standing around talking. Commander Dave left Chad in the car and walked along the line of vehicles.

"Does anyone know what happened?"

"A car tried to outrun a train," a farmer answered. "The train couldn't stop in time. Now, the car is just a twisted, burned out bunch of metal. I doubt if anyone survived."

Noticing that the cars had started to move, Commander Dave thanked the farmer and ran back to his vehicle.

"What happened?" Chad asked.

"A car got smashed by a train."

Chad watched carefully as Commander Dave slowly drove by the wreckage.

"Wait, you've got to stop, Commander Dave!" Chad yelled, suddenly. Then Chad opened his door and raced over to where the bodies were spread out on the ground.

"What in the world are you doing?" Commander Dave asked impatiently and out of breath, as he caught up to Chad.

"Commander Dave, this is the car I was in. This is Tommy Meadow's car."

"Tommy Meadows, from our church, are you sure?"

"Yes I'm sure. No one else has this license plate. See, it says, "ROUGH1. I was in this car, tonight."

Suddenly, a police officer walked up. "You guys need to move on and get out of here." He ordered.

"Officer, this young man was with these guys, tonight. Would you like to talk to him?" Commander Dave asked.

"Are they both dead?" Chad asked.

"Yes," the officer replied, "they probably died, instantly. Sure, I would like to talk to you."

Commander Dave looked over the wreckage while Chad talked to the officer. Then Chad walked with Commander Dave back to his car.

"Tommy was in Rangers, you know," Commander Dave observed. "In fact, I think we took him on his first campout. He got lost in the woods, and we had to split up into teams to go look for him. Boy, was he scared. Yeah, he would have been in Challengers by now if he hadnít quit."

Chad slumped down in his seat, reflectively, as Commander Dave continued. "So what about you Chad, you could have died tonight. You could still die before you get home. How many chances do you think God is going to give you? How long are you going to tempt God?"

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