Setting aside Bunyan this week, I’d like to share something my husband and I read together and discussed this evening.
In Chapter 5 of his book What Did You Expect, Paul Tripp explains the need for and functions of a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness in marriage. He begins by making the point that “no change takes place in a marriage that does not begin with confession”, and that is so, so true! Every change must begin with at least one party admitting that they messed up, whether in a large or small way. We each have to look long and hard and consistently at ourselves, asking God to show us any wicked ways that are in us — and then we each must own up to our faults, both to the Lord and to our spouse.
Tripp then describes the graces that accompany and enable confession. These graces come straight from and only from God, such as the grace to understand the concept of indwelling sin and the grace to have a properly functioning conscience, just to name a couple. He closes the chapter with a list of the nine Daily Habits of a Confession Lifestyle, which we should prayerfully strive to live out in our marriage. The final item on this list is truly the last-but-not-least heart of the matter when it comes to confession and forgiveness – not to mention wholeness and peace in our relationships with our children, our sisters in Christ, and other people in general. I leave you with Tripp’s thoughts:
“We will put our hope in Christ. Confession is all about hope. First, confession unavoidably leads us to give up hoping in ourselves. It calls us to abandon our trust in our own wisdom, righteousness, and strength. It welcomes us to admit how weak, selfish, needy, fickle, and rebellious we actually are. It faces us with the reality that we are still people in deep and daily need of rescue. Yes, we have grown, but sin still lives within us, diverting our desires and distorting our actions. So, we lay down the hope that we had in ourselves, and we take up a new, brighter hope. This hope is at the cross of Jesus Christ. He came to earth and lived the perfect life that we could not live. He became the perfect sacrificial lamb, taking our sins on himself, satisfying the Father’s wrath and purchasing our forgiveness. He suffered the rejection of his Father so that we would be accepted. He walked out of his tomb, defeating death and making the hope of eternal life a reality. What does this have to do with marriage?
When the shadow of the cross hangs over our marriage, we live and relate differently. We are no longer afraid to look at ourselves. We are no longer surprised by our sin. We no longer have to work to present ourselves as righteous. We say good-bye to finger-pointing and self-excusing. We abandon our record of wrongs. We settle issues quickly. And we do all these things because we know that everything we need to confess has already been forgiven, and what is needed for every new step we will take has already been supplied. We can live in the liberating light of humility and honesty, a needy and tender sinner living with a needy and tender sinner, no longer defensive and no longer afraid, together growing nearer to one another as we grow to be more like him.
Now, who wouldn’t want a marriage like that?”1
1What Did You Expect by Paul David Tripp, p.82-83