Referencing the Paul Tripp marriage conference entitled, "What Did You Expect" that Lawrence and I had the privilege to attend a few weekends ago, Tripp draws our attention to a popular "game" we all play, especially with our spouse. I'm sure you've heard of it and play it yourself from time to time: the blame game. You know the rules of this game; I don't have to spell them out for you. Most likely, you started playing this game around the same time I did, as a toddler perhaps even before we could walk or talk.
In marriage, we play the blame game any time we become convinced that our marriage would be so much better if our spouse would change. Tripp confronts this thought saying, "The 'blame game' is heresy--it never leads to a good marriage; it never leads to unity, understanding or love."
How often are we caught in that trap? When we think that, we are believing a lie. My speech and/or behavior is NEVER caused by my husband. It can be a response to something he's done or said, but it comes from within my own heart. A person cannot say or do anything that wasn't birthed within the desires, motivations and inclinations of her own heart.
Our hearts are what Paul Tripp calls the "causal core of one's personhood", the steering wheel, if you want to think of it that way, determining what comes out of your mouth and what dictates your actions.
"My words and actions always tell me more about ME than they do about my spouse".
So what have my words and actions told me about ME this week?
It depends on the moment. But, many times I must say that my words and actions toward my family especially indicated that I love myself a lot more than I love them.
I have grown irritated and impatient with my children when they haven't obeyed me right away.
I have demonstrated anger toward my husband when he neglected to demonstrate thoughtfulness toward me in a way I expected him to.
I can gratefully say, however, that God has been right there with me in those moments, convicting me of my self-centeredness, pride and anger. By God's grace, confession and repentance came quickly in those moments when I took a harsh tone with my children or gave the "cold shoulder" to Lawrence.
Truthfully, I can grow quickly discouraged that I am still growing so easily angered with my children and husband. But, instead I want to see the grace there has been in these moments....not grace that removes temptation but rather causes me to confess sin when I've blown it and even sometimes not give into the temptation in the first place. Those are really sweet moments. I experienced some of that this morning with my daughter.
She was having a really hard time focusing on school, staring out the window rather than attending to the work she had to do, fidgeting in her seat, with her hair and fingernails. I just wanted to get through the lessons and move on to helping the boys so that they could be finished with their school work before their Abuelo (grandfather) arrived to teach them Spanish. I had a long list of "to do" items clamoring for my attention. I did not appreciate her dragging her feet with her school work.
Impatience was "knocking at my door"; anger was welling up, and I wanted to be coercive and manipulative in that parenting moment to get her to pay attention and do her work. Here's one of those "little moments" that matter. By God's kindness, He captured my attention in the moment and allowed me to see the opportunity that lie before me to grow in godliness!
In my mind over and over again, I cried out to Jesus to help me demonstrate patience and long suffering to Bella, to persevere with her and encourage her rather than grow frustrated with her. He gave me empathy for her recalling times and circumstances when I've been asked to do something I don't want to do or have the energy to do. Most significant of all, He reminded me of how HE has treated me--with long suffering, patience, always being for me not against me, always wanting me to grow and thrive, never brow-beating me or manipulating me into obedience to Him.
I took many deep breaths, "breathing in" the Holy Spirit's power to do what is so far beyond me to do, rule over my emotions rather than allowing them to rule over me. And, we got through the work. It wasn't fun; it wasn't easy, but God was there with us in that moment.
My heart is a storehouse of desires, motivations, will and emotions and so is yours. Out of those full hearts, we speak and act. What have your words and actions communicated about what's in your heart this week?