Packing List Item #4
Yesterday, I wrote to you with a simple strategy for dealing with conflict in a grace-filled way: be slow to blame.
When I decided to stop blaming either one of us for the other’s reaction, life just got nicer. Our relationship went smoother. Slights could be overlooked, not such a big deal.
It was a lesson learned the hard way for me, after too many late-night arguments that just couldn’t be resolved no matter how hard we tried.
Today I have one last simple truth to pass on to you. Another one of those I wish I’d known all those years ago when Phil and I were first married.
Packing List Item #4: Be quick to confess.
When I was growing up my parents taught me to say I’m sorry. It was a way of getting out of trouble more than anything else. As a perpetual people pleaser, that phrase soon became my way of making sure nobody was mad at me. I’m sorry was supposed to make everything okay. And so I managed to I’m sorry myself out of most conflict.
Then I married Phil.
Somehow my I’m sorrys failed to have the same effect on Phil as they’d had on my parents. He didn’t just shrug his shoulders and cluck his tongue in silent disapproval over my immaturity.
Instead my loose words hurt him. My cold withdrawal wounded his heart towards me. It didn’t take long to realize that my failure to walk in the Spirit had the power to actually do harm to my husband.
And that’s when I learned the powerful healing that comes with confession.
The word for confession as it is used in the New Testament means simply, to agree with God. It is to see my sin for what it is— a black, harmful choice I make to do wrong.
Genuine confession begins first of all with a deeply spiritual sense of conviction. Somewhere nagging at my insides starts an insistent voice. It sounds subtly different than that shaming voice we speak to ourselves. These are words that woo us into the truth.
If we will learn to listen, to stop in our tracks and pay attention to that voice rather than slap it away like an irritating insect, we have an opportunity to sync our spirit with the Spirit of God.
And girls, this takes practice. Especially if, like me, you’ve spent years of your life coughing up incessant I’m sorry’s.
In this era of transparency and openness I am surprised at how seldom we actually choke out the word sin when describing our own responses.
We have “issues”. We “struggle”. But sin? That’s usually reserved for the really awful stuff like murder and adultery.
Yet when I roll my eyes and heave a great sigh when Phil does something that irritates me… that is sin.
When I spout off in frustration at yet another mess left for poor-me to clean up, because nobody cares about keeping this house clean but poor-me, and why-oh-why won’t anybody help poor-me… that is sin.
Sin against the man I love, and sin against the God who gave His life so that I wouldn’t have to wallow in that kind of soul-sucking muck.
And that is what confession is all about.
It is recognizing that what I did was wrong.
It is refusing to blame others for the way I acted.
It is agreeing with God that I don’t have to react that way anymore because He has broken the chains that once held me hostage.
It is realizing once again that I am free to choose a better way.
If we will learn to lean into that voice of Spirit-inspired conviction, then for one sacred moment we will hear those soul-healing whispers; words that offer relief and rest rather than shame and guilt. Freedom.
God transforms our offering of honest humility into an almost unrecognizable beauty— not because we tried so hard to be good, but because His goodness washes over us when we admit our utter dependence on Him.
James goes so far as to say this, “Confess your sins to each other… and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 4v16
Peter knew the same truth: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in His good time, He will honor you.” 1 Peter 5v6
Dear girls, I wish I had packed this liberating truth in my suitcase before embarking on this journey of marriage. I think we would have resolved conflicts sooner and had less of them if I’d been slow to blame and quick to confess my own sin.
We’ve learned this one together, Phil and I. And it’s made all the difference in our story.
From my heart,
P.S. Okay girls, ‘fess up! Is this as hard for you as it is for me? Do you see yourself as the perpetual victim? Have you figured out how to hear those Spirit-words of conviction and felt the freedom He brings with confession?
Your comments are giving me the courage to let you in a little closer by opening up the corners of the real me.
PACKING LIST ITEMS
On our journeys around the globe these past few weeks, I’ve been writing letters home to my girls about things I wish I’d packed and prepared for this life-long journey of marriage. These are four things I wish I’d known right from the beginning that would have better prepared me for this strange and exhilarating task of loving a man for the rest of forever.
#3 - Be slow to blame