Years ago I heard a pastor tell the story of a time he had to admit to his wife that he was wrong. “R.O.N.G. Wrong!” he said with firm enunciation of each letter. Some of his friends later joked that he was so unfamiliar with acknowledging being wrong, he didn’t even know how to spell it!
When is the last time you said, “I was wrong?” Would those close to you and me say it’s something they hear only infrequently from us? Or it is a regular occurrence?
For me, it was last Saturday. I reacted angrily to someone I love. Of course, I felt justified. She acted selfishly and needed to learn a thing or two. I lectured. She withdrew. I seethed. She cried. We parted ways. Then I cried and felt foolish for being hurt. A few hours later we were together again and I apologized. She didn’t…so I was hurt again.
Ugh. I tried to remove a speck from someone’s eye by gouging it out with my words. Nope, it didn’t work.
It never does.
She needs correction and help. She was wrong, but her wrongness exposed my own weakness. And two wrongs definitely didn’t make a right. As David Pawlison says, our heart is like a sponge. When it gets squeezed, whatever was in the sponge comes out. If fresh water is in the sponge, fresh water comes out. If putrid water is in the sponge, putrid water comes out. When my heart got squeezed, what was already in there — anger, resentment, frustration, irritation — came out.
So what happens when something in another’s life legitimately needs to be addressed and we blow it? We attempt to remove a speck gently (at first) but something goes wrong and, like Pinocchio’s lengthening nose, before we know it a log is growing out of our own eye as we speak. What then? Does our wrong discount the wrong of another?
Over the weekend I wrestled. Honestly, I’m still wrestling. I’m asking God to clarify for me why I reacted the way I did on Saturday. How did the yukky water that was squeezed out of the sponge of my heart get there? I generally apologized, but then told her I needed some time to discern the specific ways I had sinned against her; knowledge that only God could give me since only He knows my heart. I’m still asking and, gratefully, clarity is coming.
These words from author and teacher Paul Tripp have helped me over the past few days:
“When I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it…I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!”
I blew it on Saturday. I wanted to defend myself to her; to myself; to God. But I had to just admit it: I was W.R.O.N.G. Wrong. The truth is, without God’s sanctifying grace in my life I would be a regularly angry person who demands to be heard, understood and appreciated. Apart from His power to change me, I would have no hope of growing in self-control and patience. Yes, I wouldn’t know how to spell wrong because there’s a part of me that still wants to justify myself and admit my failure only when others are willing to do so, too. I don’t mind admitting my wrongs if the blame is shared. I want everyone’s specks to be exposed and gone, not just because I ache for their freedom but, in part, because specks mess up my own life.
God, though, looks on me not with foot tapping impatience and frustration with my wrongness, but with forgiving mercy. How can that be? Such grace is scandalous because I deserve frustration, not forgiveness, from holiness Himself.
And so I ask again: Lord, help me. My dear one needs some speck removal. I tried and failed. My own log was revealed and I need your help to remove it. There is comfort in the admission that I am weak. Once again, I come to a throne of grace to find mercy. I’m not afraid because you died for me knowing I would need your forgiveness again and again. So please forgive me and help me to have the courage to attempt to gently remove that speck in Your time. And if not me, then help me to trust You to use someone else. Amen.