Two weeks ago we started going through a marriage study called “What did you expect?” by Paul Tripp with our life group. Tripp says something really interesting in the first part of this study that I thought would be worth while to note for the benefit of everyone, not just believers who are married.
He used the illustration of a newly opened water bottle; saying that we are the bottle and whatever comes out as a result of “stress” (in this case, shaking the bottle from side to side) will be what was already IN the bottle; in this case of course, Water. He then related this to spouses, and said that whatever comes out of a person as a result of any stressful situation–be it your spouse sinning against you, someone else sinning against you, a difficult circumstance etc–can only be what was already IN the person to begin with. He talked about the heart in this way, relating back to the biblical truth that out of the heart the mouth speaks, and he said that in this way WE are the problem of our relationships, because no matter what the situation, what is in us is IN us, and that will dominate the way we handle our circumstances.
It’s a hard concept to grasp I think, but it is certainly applicable to any human relationship. We are responsible for putting our trust, our identity, our life enough in the Lord’s hands that even the greatest struggles can be responded to with grace. Of course, none of us will ever get this right all the time. But it definitely brings forth the idea of personal responsibility that is so lost in our world, and especially in our American culture. The good news is that we are not expected to do this alone. And I could not be more grateful, because so often what is IN ME is my self-idolatry which demands that all my needs be met as a requirement for my acting kindly.
It is very eye opening to consider oneself in this light. Everything that comes out of you, for whatever reason, was already IN you. What is IN you that you wish wasn’t? That you aren’t exactly proud of? Do not despair! If you know Jesus, you also have something IN you that will Redeem all the rest. And if that isn’t good news, I don’t know what is!
May we no longer look blindly at the sin that quickly triumphs when we choose to point the finger at someone else. This isn’t to say that the circumstances weren’t negative, or even that the other person is INNOCENT, but that we also are responsible for how we handle each piece of life. May the God of all grace fill us up to overflowing with His love, grace, and mercy for others, and for ourselves today.