"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Impasse on the Road Home

It is painful to hear. The partners in the couple before me seem so motivated to change the relationship for the better. However, for whatever reason, they find themselves at an impasse. They feel unable to move forward on the road home to loving relationship.

Individuals find themselves stuck in their progress, too. If you have ever failed at a resolution, you know the drill. Buy the book or video, or enroll at the health club, start with intensity, and watch as the intensity wanes as your energies drift elsewhere. Sometimes, the intensity itself becomes the revolving door on the burning building of emotional distress. No matter how fast we run, here we stay.

Frequently, the impasse seems to come in the form of deferred responsibility. If the partners in a relationship feel the solution lies exclusively in the other person’s camp, not much is likely to change for the better. If the individual believes that others (or the world) must change, or that God must take control of their emotions, in my experience, things usually stay much the same.

One might conclude, then, that I am advocating for a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy similar to the former-drill-instructor-become-therapist commercial on the airwaves these days. As funny as it is, that is not what I am talking about. People need to be willing to look at their part in the problem, to evaluate what changes they themselves can make, and proceed with optimism. This is a secret passage through an invisible wall.

Jesus taught that we should remove the plank from our own eye before helping our brother remove the speck from his. Note, he does NOT say not to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, as some erroneously conclude (probably to avoid confrontation by others). What he does advocate, is removing the beam from our own eye, so that we can see more clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye.

But, what is all this talk of planks and specks, and how do we apply this parable to our personal growth? I truly believe Jesus is teaching us to own our responsibility in troublesome matters, because in so doing, we own our power to bring about positive change. The hypercritical husband who engenders active or passive rebellion from his wife and children needs to take a long hard look at his heart, his goals, and his actions. If what he wants is an immaculate life devoid of messes and conflict, he may eventually find himself alone and lonely. The wife who has slid into passive rebellion, chronically “forgetting” to do what her husband asks of her, needs to evaluate whether her long term goal is to undermine his trust in her. Open honest dialogue with both partners owning responsibility for their contributions to the ongoing conflict is the first step. For this to happen, hearts have to be open to evaluation and change.

David’s classic prayer, “Search me and know me, and see if there is any wicked way in me,” is an excellent example of a pliable, teachable heart. The Holy Spirit is ready, willing, and able to shine His light into the dark recesses of our souls, not for condemnation, but for healing.

Once we have allowed thorough soul-searching on our own part, have asked forgiveness for our contributions to the problem, and have lovingly evaluated the other person (acknowledging our human perspective is limited), we are in a position to be truly helpful. This is a good question to have looming in our minds as we approach others: “How can I be truly helpful.”

Eventually, forgiveness sets us free more than the person we forgive. If we have a realistic view of our own fallen state and imperfections, it is not as difficult to forgive the specks of others. Then we can all see our way more clearly, as we seek intimacy, on the road home.

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  1. Thanks Steve. This is a timely blog for the new year. Amen.

  2. Excellent reminder! Another reason, I think, we need to deal with our own planks before we help a brother is so that we are then more connected through our humility in that process to the Holy Spirit and will be more apt to hear what he has to say about the other guy's speck. Only then can we be truly helpful to our brother.
    Kalynn Carlton