Monday, May 13, 2019

A well-worn path

We all probably have heard some variation of the 'confession is good for the soul' terminology. The fact of the matter is that it is one of the most powerful 'actions' we take on behalf of our soul that actually begins to touch the souls of those around us. Being able to own up to your mistakes is hard, but there comes a time when the soul is changed by one simple confession. There is nothing that binds two people together in a more committed manner than being able to confess one's mistakes to the other. Too many times, we hold out for the other to come to the place of admitting they were wrong before we will take even one step in that direction. When we choose to do this, we alienate ourselves from that which will bring health to our own lives. It is in confession that we find healing. The first place of healing is at the foot of the cross - in confession we find deliverance. The next place we may need to make confession is at the feet of a friend - for in confession, we find wholeness in the relationship is restored.

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine." (Matthew 5:23-26)

Jesus is talking about making the "first" move. Whenever you have knowledge that you have offended, or that the other feels that you have offended them, it is your responsibility to make the first move toward reconciliation. Sometimes we think that we did nothing wrong and in actuality, when the facts are examined, we probably didn't have much to do with the thing that now drives a wedge between us! But...the other person interpreted something you said or did as offensive to them. It was a very difficult thing for me to actually learn that I was responsible for the way others perceive me. I wanted to believe how they saw me was their problem - not mine. After all, if it was their problem, then I didn't need to do anything to 'fix' the problem!

It is in my actions, words, or lack of these, that you form an impression of me. You "perceive" me as kind, caring, and a joy to be around, OR you see me as meddlesome, overbearing, and a pain to be associated with at all. The way I "come across" is my doing - it is my responsibility! Sometimes, we don't do such a good job at putting our best effort into being our best in relationship. Whenever this happens riffs are apt to occur. Jesus gave us the picture of being at the altar, ready to offer a sacrifice of worship, and realizing that a "riff" had occurred. His instruction: Leave the sacrifice (abandon what you are doing) and beat a path to the doorway of the one you have offended - the sacrifice matters little if there is discontent and misunderstanding in relationship.

Now, for some of us, this "pathway" to the door of the one we have offended may be a little better worn! I have been in relationships where I find that the two of us are just like course sandpaper to each other - constantly rubbing each other wrong. Those "paths" are a little deeper worn than in some of my other relationships. In fact, I "know the way" without even looking - simply because I have made my way to them often enough that the way is familiar to me. At first, it was very awkward and uncomfortable. Now, it is a little easier, but no less important! If we are always waiting for the other to make the first move, we may wait a long, long time. In that passage of time, the mind and heart has a chance to "formulate" all kinds of imagined reasons for why the relationship will never work again. It is that very passage of time that Jesus was focusing on us avoiding. He even says that worship is not more important than making things right when an offense exists. It matters that much to him to see us living well with each other!

We are not "overlooking" an offense and just letting someone get by with something. Instead, we are coming together to "settle the differences" - making a clean slate of things. Sometimes, it means we both confess we were wrong - at other times, it may only be one of us that comes to the place of confession. It does not have to be both of us realizing the error in our ways to bring reconciliation - it only takes one of us making the move! In time, God will do the rest. In the times of open dialogue within relationship, confession plays an important part in the destruction of "dividing walls" that serve to drive us far apart. That 'well-worn' path is not a bad thing, but remember - as important as the pathway is, avoiding the need to use it at all is something we should learn over time! Just sayin!

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