I often wonder how many people are stuck in their relationships in a cycle of repeating the same things over and over again. They repeat the same misunderstandings. They rehearse and re-rehearse the same arguments. They repeat the same wrongs. Again and again things are not resolved. Night after night they end the day with nothing reconciled; they awake with memories of another bad moment with a friend, spouse, neighbor, co-worker or family member and they march toward the next time when the cycle will be repeated.
It all becomes predictable and discouraging. They hate the cycle. They wish things were what they once were. Their minds swing between nostalgia and disappointment. They want things to be different, but they don’t seem to know how to break free, and they don’t seem willing to do the one thing that makes change possible—confess.
They tell themselves they will do better. They promise they will deal with their issues. They promise they will seek God's help. They decide to invest more time and energy in the relationship. They promise they will talk more. But it is not long before all the promises fade away. It is not long before they are in the same place again. All their commitments to change have been subverted by the one thing they seem unwilling to do: take the focus off the other and put it on themselves.
Here is the point: no change takes place in a relationship that does not begin with confession. The problem for many of us is we look at confession as a burden, when it is actually a grace.
It is a grace to know right from wrong
Change is all about measuring yourself against a standard, being dissatisfied with where you are because you see that you have fallen short of the standard, and seeking the grace to close the gap from where you are to where you need to be.
James likened the Word of God to a mirror (James 1:22–25) into which we can look and see ourselves as we actually are. It is impossible to overstate how important this is. Accurate diagnosis always precedes effective cure. You only know that the board is too short because you can place it against a measuring instrument. You only know that the temperature in your house is too hot because you have a measuring instrument in your house (called a thermostat).
The Bible is God’s ultimate measuring instrument. It is meant to function in each of our lives as a spiritual tape measure. We can place ourselves and our relationships next to it and see if we measure up to God’s standard. God’s Word is one of his sweetest gifts of grace, and open eyes to see it clearly and an open heart to receive it willingly are sure signs of God’s grace as well.
It is a grace to understand the concept of indwelling sin
One of the most tempting fallacies for us—and for every human being in this fallen world—is to believe that our greatest problems exist outside us rather than inside us. Despite this, the Bible calls us to humbly confess that the greatest, deepest, most abiding problem each of us faces is inside of us, not outside. The Bible names that problem "sin." Because sin is self-focused and self-serving, it is antisocial and destructive to our relationships.
You know that you have been gifted with grace when you are able to say, “My greatest relationship problems are because of what's inside of me not outside of me.”
Look tomorrow for Part 2 of "The Grace of Confession."