Summer is for re-runs, and so Boundless is running an article I first wrote for them back in 2006. But I bet it will be fresh for quite a number of you because this blog's readership has grown in the last few years. It was pretty fresh for me, too. For one thing, I couldn't remember the real names of the couple in this piece! Thus, the identities of Jake and Siena are forever classified. For another thing, I was convicted by my own words. Blame-shifting is a classic human, sinful response and it easily rises up in the proud heart. Here's the opening segment:
When I opened my door to the persistent knocking, I encountered emotional turbulence that was nearly tangible. With an impatient scowl, "Siena" (all names have been changed to protect the guilty) announced, "I don't think this is going to work." Then she sailed past me and flopped on the sofa. Piling pillows protectively around her, Siena issued her next proclamation: "We have WAY too much conflict."
I studied her for a moment, then sat down and asked, "Tell me about the last one."
Siena rolled her eyes and said, "We drove around for half an hour looking for the restaurant where we were supposed to meet a bunch of his friends from work. As usual, Jake forgot the directions. He always leaves half of his possessions and various bits of important information scattered in his wake wherever we go. It makes me absolutely crazy! So I'm trying not to mommy him, but I'm thinking, 'Just call the restaurant already!' But he can't — because he doesn't remember the name of it. He says that when he sees it, he'll know it. So then I say, 'Why don't you just call one of the guys who went?' But guess what? He doesn't have any of their numbers in his cell phone. When we finally found the place, everyone was already eating. It was such a waste of time. And then get this — Jake tells me on the way home that he thought I over-reacted and that my anger ruined the evening! Ah-mazing!"
As I listened to Siena, I had the urge to extend an imaginary remote control and put her on pause to examine her story. Why? There are two large red flags waving here, but they aren't about Siena's boyfriend. They are attached to the plank emanating from Siena's eye. Both are extremely common.
So let's use that remote, rewind the conversation, and go to the heart of the matter.
What's in the Sponge?
Jake thought Siena over-reacted to his forgetfulness. Siena disagreed. With only two people's perspectives to consider, this conflict might never get resolved.
Fortunately, the Bible brings another perspective to bear that will sort this out. The solution is found in what Siena has been storing up in her heart. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus talks about this as roots and fruits:
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
In other words, our words (and thoughts and actions) are the evidence of what is stored up in our hearts, the fruit of what is rooted inside of us. The circumstances of our lives simply reveal what's taken root in our hearts. When pressed, we either ooze the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of sin.
Author and biblical counselor Dr. David Powlison uses the sponge analogy to help us understand this passage. If you hold a wet sponge in your hand and squeeze it, water will hit the floor. Most of us would come along and look at the puddle staining the carpet and wonder why someone squeezed the sponge. But Dr. Powlison says this passage in Luke shows us the squeeze only revealed what was already in the sponge. If the sponge were dry, the squeeze would not have elicited any water. The problem wasn't the squeeze; it was the contents of the sponge.
In the same way, when we get squeezed by the circumstances of life (an inevitability), we ooze the overflow of our hearts. We usually don't like what we see, so we blame the squeeze. We blame the circumstances. "I wouldn't have reacted that way if I hadn't been tired." Or, "I only said that because I was hot, thirsty, and uncomfortable." That's our default setting: blame the circumstances.
But Jesus tells us the overflow is what's already in our hearts. Being tired, hot, thirsty, or uncomfortable are only "revealers"; they aren't the reason we react in anger. We're angry because anger has taken root in our hearts.
[Read the rest of the article, "You Made Me Sin," on Boundless.org.]