Charles Steinmetz was a genius of an electrical engineer for General Electric. On one occasion after he retired the other engineers were baffled by a problem. They called Steinmetz back to see if he could help. He walked around the machine for several minutes then made a cross mark on one specific part of the huge machine.
When the engineers took the machine apart they were amazed to find it turned out to be the exact location of the breakdown.
A few days later GE received a bill for $10,000...a huge sum in those days. Since it was so extreme they returned the invoice and asked for an itemized bill. A few days later they received the following explanation:
Making one cross mark: $1.
Knowing where to put it: $9,999.00
Confession is a long lost discipline. It is knowing where to put the mark. It is not on my parents, not on my neighborhood, not on my economic standing....it is on me. Confession is taking responsibility for what I have done.
Our Bible reading has brought us to the end of the Old Testament. Two fearless leaders emerge to lead the nation of Israel. Ezra was appalled at how the Hebrews had intermarried with the cultures around them. Nehemiah was appalled at the report he heard of the state of the city of Jerusalem.
Both men knew where to put the mark. They owned the guilt of the nation. Ezra prayed a gut wrenching prayer of confession in chapter 9. Nehemiah acknowledged that Israel's disobedience was the reason for the chaos.
Confession is like lasic surgery on our hearts. It quickly goes right to the source of the problem and attacks.
Proud people seldom admit wrong. Have you been there? We deceive ourselves saying......."It wasn't that bad.......that guy did a lot worse stuff than I.......nobody is perfect."
Ezra and Nehemiah own it. They tell us what happened and why it happened. "Our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens."
But confession is not just an honest conversation with God. It also requires correction. Ezra named the guilty and told them to separate from their foreign wives. Nehemiah gathered resources to rebuild the wall.
Saying, "I'm sorry" or "Hail Mary" or "My bad" doesn't fix things. We need to go back and make it right.
From the safety of our self-deception we can point to Trump or Clinton or the Pope or the culture and see glaring inconsistencies. The one who is poor in spirit realizes the secret lies within me. Figure out where to put the mark.
God used both men to accomplish much. It started not with great strategy but with confession. That's a good place to start for all of us.
Be strong and courageous, MB
Thanks to John Ortberg for the story. (Ortberg, The Life You Always Wanted, P. 123)