Musical Musings and Real Life: What I Learned from "Into the Woods"
I went to see Into the Woods, the latest movie-musical to hit the big screen. In case you haven’t seen it, the story is divided into two parts. The first part is the happily ever after of all the whimsical fairy tales. Everyone celebrates the fact that they got their wish, ignoring the bad choices they made to get their perfect ending.
However, the second act follows, pointing out that sometimes, the consequences of your actions do eventually catch up with you. And as the climax approaches, the cast sings a song called, “Your Fault!” The frantic melody characterizes the intense desire of each character to shift the blame of the day’s events to someone else. Each character claims, “So it’s your fault!” culminating in Jack’s exclamation, “And it isn’t mine at all!” But each person is ignoring his or her own actions that led to the current situation. One stole things. Another deceived people. Yet another was careless. The final provoked others. But all claim innocence.
As I thought about this song, I began to think about how it often characterizes true life. We are sometimes just like these movie characters. We mess up. We make mistakes. But how often do we actually accept our wrongdoing? Instead, we often try to shift the blame to someone else. We look for any way that it could be someone else’s fault. And we talk ourselves into believing that it isn’t ours at all. We claim our own innocence. Of course, someone else is responsible.
Now, I am not trying to say that we should take the blame for everything. I’m just saying that there are a lot of times when we are responsible for our sin, but we don’t want to own up to it. We do this with lots of different things.
We grow apart from our spouse or our children. While the truth might have been that we were cold or too busy, we blame them, saying that the kids were too rambunctious or our husband worked too late. And when our marriage is hanging on by a thread or our children are getting on our last nerve, we refuse to consider our role in the problem.
We don’t spend time with God, but then don’t feel like God is near. Then we think that it must be our pastor’s fault. His preaching just isn’t good enough. Or maybe it’s the music minister’s fault. If only he would prepare better songs. Never even taking a moment to consider that our actions…our priorities…could be to blame.
But as I read the Bible, I notice that God’s Word teaches exactly the opposite. There is a part of godliness that comes from admitting our blame. Here’s what I’ve seen.
1. God requires admission of guilt as part of repentance.
God is a holy God. He requires his servants to be holy as well. But we all miss that mark. The Bible teaches that, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 6:23). We don’t live up to God’s standards. And the first step of repentance is acknowledgement of that fact.
The Bible is full of verses that reference a need to confess our sin. In Leviticus and Numbers, the Lord continually commands that when a man realizes his guilt, even if the sin was unintentional, he must confess it (Lev 5:5, Lev 26:40, Num 5:5, Num 5:7). Psalms references confession, saying, “I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover up my iniquity” (Ps 32:5) and “I confess my iniquity. I am sorry for my sin” (Ps 38:18). John proclaims, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
While few of us want to acknowledge that we are to blame, a true realization and confession of our sin and our mistakes is imperative to a right relationship with God. Without confession, we are lying to ourselves and others. 1 John also says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). The truth of our sin hurts, but it is still the truth. And acknowledging that truth is the first step to true fellowship with the Father.
2. Owning up to our role doesn’t mean that we approve of our actions…nor does it give us the right to keep sinning.
Accepting the blame, acknowledging and confessing, is only the beginning of our journey with God. If we simply acknowledge our blame, but do not repent (basically, turning from our sin and turning to God), we have accomplished nothing. The Bible teaches that “godly sorrow leads to repentance” (2 Cor 7:10). Proverbs 28:13 says “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” We acknowledge our sin. We are sorry for that sin. We repent of that sin. Only then do we have a right relationship with God.
3. Acknowledging our actions allows us to make restoration.
There is also another reason why we need to be ready to own up to our actions. Through confession of our guilt, we can sometimes achieve restoration with our brothers and sisters. The church is meant to be a family. Its strong bonds come from human relationships and love. But every person in the church is human. Every person sins. And sometimes, we must admit our blame in a relationship so that we can make things right.
The Bible teaches that we are to confess our sins to each other (Jms 5:16). Jesus himself commanded his followers to confess their sin to others when he said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering (Matt 5:23-24). Confession of our part in a hurt relationship is so important that Christ ordered his followers to be reconciled before presenting their offering.
While confession is incredibly difficult, it is also an integral step in our sanctification. So the next time you are tempted to shift the blame – or break out in a blame-shifting Broadway song – remember that the first step to a right relationship with God and with others around us is an admission of our own guilt. While we are never called to wallow in our guilt, there are times when we must take ownership of our sin. Then and only then can we give it to our gracious Heavenly Father who will throw it as far as the east is from the west. Only then can we be blameless.