A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
“Guilty.” The judge’s gavel rang through the room, and my knees weakened. The heat crept into my cheeks and my knees felt like jelly. God, no, I prayed silently, let my innocence be known. The room seemed to be closing in around me and the only sound I could clearly hear was my mom crying.
“Samuel John Adams, the felony that you committed could land you in jail for up to five years. However being merciful and understanding, we see that you are only sixteen and this is your first offence. I feel the need to sentence you to the minimum of two years in a juvenile detention center.”
My knees began shaking even more. The only people in the whole room that believed I was innocent were my mom and dad, and if I was sent away who would take care of them? I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs ‘I’m innocent! I never touched that money!’ but no one would believe me.
“However,” The judge continued, “I believe you have learned a valuable lesson, and so I have decided to sentence you to two years free on parole instead. You will be released into the custody of your parents and assigned a parole officer.”
My head was spinning, and I felt numb all over. This couldn’t really be happening to me. I was the good kid.
As soon as we were dismissed from the court room, a strong hand was placed on my shoulder. “Sorry, Kid. I told you to plead guilty,” my defense attorney said.
Yeah, right, I bet he’s sorry, I thought. I opened my mouth to tell him what I thought of his lawyer abilities, but something stopped me. “Thank you for trying to help me,” I said instead.
When I got to Mom, I couldn’t help but bite my lip. Her mascara was smudged, and her usually beautiful, young face seemed older than her forty six years.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I said simply.
Mom wrapped me in a hug. “It’s okay, Sammy. I still believe in you.”
Right, like having your mom and dad believe in you is enough to clear your name with everyone in town.
I glanced over to where Dad sat in his wheelchair. His disabled hands sat limply in his lap, and his forehead was showing deep lines that I had never seen before.
When all the papers were filled out, and I was free to go, I pushed Dad from the court house, and helped him into the van. Mom and Dad were both being strangely quiet, and I wondered if even they had decided that I was lying.
I drove Mom and Dad home in silence. What could I say? Ever since Dad’s accident I had been the one providing for the family. I knew Mr. Sherrill would never let me come back to work. After all, he was the one that had accused me of stealing in the first place.
After helping Dad into the house, I went to my room and shut the door. Sitting on my bed, I stared at the wall. What was going to happen? I knew my older two sisters couldn’t help provide for Dad and Mom; they were both married and had their own families to care for.
“Sammy!” Mom called. “Supper’s ready!”
I trudged down the stairs, and took my seat at the table. Hanging my head, I stared at my plate.
Dad bowed his head. “Dear, God, thank you for this good food, and for providing for us. Thank you that Sammy is able to stay here with us instead of going to a Juvenile Detention Center, and please, help Sammy to be patient through this all. In Jesus name we pray, amen.”
Mom started dishing up Dad’s plate, and I couldn’t help but think of how awful it would be if Mom had to get a job. Who would take care of Dad?
As I watched Dad struggling to lift his fork to his mouth with his crooked hand, I knew I had to be the one to provide.
“First thing tomorrow, I’ll go find another job,” I said firmly.
Dad paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. “Are you sure, Son, I mean you’ve been through a lot these last few weeks.”
I nodded. “I need to do this.”
Mom laid her hand gently on mine. “Samuel, maybe you shouldn’t.”
I tried to think why Mom wouldn’t want me to get a job, and the only reason I could think of was that she didn’t trust me. Maybe Dad doesn’t either, I thought. Maybe they think I really am a thief.
It made perfect sense. Of course they didn’t trust me. Why should they take my word over Mr. Sherrill’s? Mr. Sherrill said that I had stolen money from his store and he had even supplied enough convincing evidence to assure the jury of my guilt. Why should my parents believe in my innocence when the whole town believed I was guilty?
“I understand,” I said. “You think I’m guilty too.”
I was met by silence. What could I expect? After all, some of the money had been found in my backpack.
“I don’t blame you for not trusting me,” I said, once more staring at my plate.
Dad laid his fork down and pulled his shaking hand to his lap. “You’ve never given us a reason to doubt your honesty, Son. I believe you.”
I glanced at Dad with doubt, but his face was as honest and sincere as always.
“Sammy, we do believe you,” Mom assured. “If you say you didn’t take that money, than you didn’t take that money. I just don’t want you to feel like you have to get a job right away because of us.”
“Dad and Mom, I want to provide for you guys. You’ve been providing for me for so many years, it’s only right that I do my share.”
After supper I went to my room, and spent a good two hours reading my Bible and praying. It seemed that besides my parents, God was the only friend I had. As I read the story of Joseph, I was struck with the fact that even though he spent time in jail after being falsely accused, he still trusted God.
I fell asleep with the firm resolve to trust God… but it didn’t last long. The next afternoon, I felt worse than I had when I had been found guilty in court.
“How did it go?” Mom asked when I came in the front door.
“It was awful, Mom. I tried everywhere, but no one will hire me because they all heard that I was a thief. My best friend, Ray, won’t even speak to me.” I swallowed hard. “Mom, I don’t want to do this, but maybe I should leave. I could go somewhere where the people don’t know me, and I could get a job and send you guys the money.”
Mom shook her head. “Sammy, God will provide.”
“I know God will take care of us no matter what, but I can’t help but think how awful it’s going to be for you and Dad. Everywhere I go people point and whisper about me. I don’t want you guys being looked down on because you have a delinquent son.”
“Samuel,” Dad’s voice came from the other room. Mom and I walked into the living room, and I sat down on the couch beside Dad’s wheelchair.
“Yes, Sir?” I said.
“Are you ashamed to be seen with me?”
I was shocked at Dad’s words. “Of course not!” I replied fervently. “You’re my dad, and I will never be ashamed of you.”
“Samuel, my own two feet aren’t capable of carrying me, and my own two hands aren’t strong enough to wheel me around. Since my accident, everyone stares at me, they whisper when I can’t do things for myself. I can hardly feed myself, yet you’re not ashamed to be seen with me.”
I paused as I caught his drift.
“Son, as long as you’re living for God, your mom and I will never be ashamed of you. Keep your conscience clear before God, and you have nothing to worry about. Keep doing what you know you should do, and God will bless you.”
That night, I followed Dad’s advice, and went to the retirement home where I held a Bible study every week for the elderly. The guys that I normally went with, ignored me, so I went and found some people that didn’t have anyone to care for them, and I spent the evening ministering to them.
For the next five months, I followed Dad’s advice. I served God wherever I could, I faithfully helped out at the street mission, I ignored people’s rude comments and I faithfully met with my parole officer once a week. It was hard trusting God, because there was no income, but every time we needed money, God provided.
It was a Wednesday evening, and I was getting ready for church. People at church were more understanding, but I knew most of them thought I was lying too. I was in the middle of tying my tie when the phone rang.
Mom answered it, and then called up the stairs. “Sammy! It’s for you!”
I paused. No one had called to talk to me since I had been accused of theft. My best friend Ray hadn’t said a word to me since the incident.
I hurried downstairs and grabbed the phone. “Hello?”
“Samuel, this is Officer Wilson, and I’m calling to let you know that just a few hours ago we apprehended a fellow that works at Mr. Sherrill’s store… he was stealing.”
“Okay,” I said wondering where this was going.
“After questioning him, we have proved that he was the one that’s been stealing all along, not you. It seems he planted that money in your back pack because he didn’t want to be caught with it. We’re sorry for our mistake. You’re a free man. The judge will have to pardon you, but that will simply be a formality. Consider yourself free.”
“Thank you sir!” I said.
“No problem kid, we’re sorry for your trouble, but we’re just doing our job.”
“Don’t feel bad sir, and thank you for doing your job.”
“Yeah, well we’ll talk to you later,” he said hanging up. I almost jumped up and down.
“What was that all about?” Mom asked.
“I’m free, Mom. That was Officer Wilson; he said they caught the guy that’s been stealing, and they’ve been able to prove that it was him all along and not me. I’m free! Dad!” I yelled hurrying towards the living room where Dad was sitting. “I’m free!”
I explained to Dad and Mom exactly what Officer Wilson had said, and they rejoiced with me. Then the phone rang again.
“Hello this is Sam?”
“Hey, Sam. This is Ray. I just heard what happened. They were talking about it on the radio. Can you ever forgive me for not believing you?”
“I forgive you pal. We’ll talk about it at church tonight.”
We talked for a bit, and then he hung up. I was happy to say the least. Then the phone rang again. When I was done, I was bursting with joy.
“That was Mr. Sherrill, and I have my job back.”
“You sure find it easy to forgive people don’t you?” Mom asked.
“No, Mom, I don’t, but I have to keep reminding myself that if I had been in their shoes, I would have probably reacted the same way.”
“No you wouldn’t have. You’re better than that Sammy. You have character,” she said smiling at me. I smiled back.
“Only with the Lord’s help. Let’s go to church,” I said heading for the door.
All night I felt like I was walking on water, it seemed that everyone had to apologize to me for their attitudes, but that didn’t matter, I was free.
The next day the radio called and interviewed me live. Because of being falsely accused, I got to share the gospel on the radio with who knows how many people listening!
Dad was right, even when people treat you wrong, you just have to keep living how you know is right, and God will bless you for that. He sure blessed me. Times were often hard, we often didn’t have enough money, but God never once abandoned us and we always had enough to eat. God really does care for His children.