Friday, September 20, 2013

Conflict is not on my To-Do list.

  We hear it all the time.  "I don't like conflict." "I don't want any confrontation." Who does?  I never hear someone say they are looking for a fight or bring it on!  The problem is that because so many, okay, ALL of us dislike confrontation, we don't know how to handle it.

  What do you do to resolve conflict? Did someone teach you how to problem solve, attack the problem not the person, believe the best and work toward a solution?  I can bet for most people the answer would be no. The Bible talks a great deal about resolving conflict, but I wonder how many of us actually go to the source for the answer?  Can you have a fight with someone and still desire a relationship with them?  Can you resolve differences or overlook an offense to the benefit of the other person?

  I can't stand confrontations.  Not at all.  I was told when I was younger that I should be a lawyer because I seem to like arguing.  A hurtful statement to be sure, but so far from the truth.  I would rather do so many treacherous things than argue.  I HATE being at odds with people.  Every conflict that arises shatters whatever confidence I have built up.  I have to start over again.  I don't want that for others either.

  I know people who would say that conflict is God's way of humbling you.  I would disagree.  I would believe that because we are fragile humans our confidence is crushed by cruelty.  Someone using careless words, applying the wrong accusation to the situation, or assuming you are something you are not are a few ways that conflicts arise.

  James 4:1-2 says "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covert and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask."

  Earlier in James 3:10 "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not be so."  A few verses later he compares worldly wisdom to wisdom from above.  One is born out of jealousy and selfish ambition.  The other is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits.

   When you are at odds with someone what is your motivation?  Is it to restore and build-up? Are you hoping to humble the other person with your sharp tongue and prove to them that you are right? Are you trying to get your way?  Are you placing blame for something into the hands of innocent parties?  Think about how church fights start.  It is often because someone thinks they are right and wants everyone else to fall in line.  Our passion within us is to be right.  Our passion within us is to be something we are not.  We are blinded by our pride and selfishness. Give me what I want and we all can be happy. Right?

  I wish that I could tell you that I am perfect at this whole conflict thing.  I wish that I could say I have mastered it.  I wish that I could tell you great wisdom and the seven step process to freedom from conflict.  The truth is that I am not.  I don't always know how to handle a potential conflict so I run.  I build a wall so tall that I can't climb out and not one can climb in.  I chose to stay there.  I chose to take the "easy way out" and run. I would rather not say anything at all then to point out what needs to be changed.  I would love to say so many things about how great it is to have healthy and healing conflict that will still maintain relationships, integrity, emotions and humility.

  The problem comes that when I run into a conflict unaware, unprepared and unavoidable I don't know what to do.  I search for what it was I did to cause the issue.  I take all the blame.  Clearly the person is upset because they don't like me.  They are accusing me of something I never did or never was intentional about.  I am crushed that someone would think of me in a negative way.  I don't ever want that.  Who does?!

 I have had fights with others that have ruined any hope of peace.  I have exchanged words that will forever hurt.  I have been wrongly accused, taken offense, offended without apologies, and had my pride injured.  This isn't God's design for his children.  This isn't His desire for how we relate to one another.  In our sinful nature this is how it goes though, doesn't it? (James 4)

 I have many different conflicts going on at the same time.  Some I am just letting linger to see how it will turn out or hoping that it will be ignored enough to just go away.  Others were small things that have become giant messes almost instantly.  I am struggling with letting the emotion of the situation go and dig to the truth.  Find the root of the issue.  Can I truly say I am faultless in this situation?  Did I offend intentionally to get my way?  I want to believe that I didn't.  I don't wake up every morning with a list of people I want to insult.  It isn't a successful day when I have offended even one person.

 One particular mess is weighing so heavy on me that I can't seem to breath.  I was stern in my tone but was as careful as I could be to show respect and appreciation for the other person.  I was convicted of my fault in being strong in my attitude.  I made apologies for that but not for the premise of the conversation.  Instead of that person doing the biblical thing (Matthew 18:15) he immediately involved other people.  Accusations were made and my own actions and integrity were called into question.  What should my response be?  Was I reluctant?  Was I hurt? Was I scared?  Yes to all.  Did I believe there was a sin committed? no.  Now what could have been easily resolved has blown up.  It has involved people who weren't witnesses.  I want justice to be done.  I want to hurl insults at the accuser.  I want to run and hide.  I want to disappear and hope that everyone will forget all about me.  I want to be free of the mess.  It isn't want I wanted and NEVER imagined that it would turn that direction.

  Life is messy.  We are so arrogant and selfish as humans.  We want what we can't have and we are willing to hurt others to get it.  Why?  For what purpose?  The momentary satisfactions.  No matter what it is, it is just that- momentary.  For me, I think, during these conflicts the enemy pushes those buttons of doubt and fear so that it will distract me from being on my knees.  Why would God hear my prayer when I am at odds with someone?

  I am at home during the day and mostly working on some project, bills or something.  During this time I listen to Pandora.  I have chosen hymns to play all day.  Some are instrumental and some have words.  All have power.  I am confident that God gave me a tender spot toward music and the power He displays through the words of His faithful.  Do you know how many times I heard "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "Take it to the Lord in Prayer," "Be Thou My Vision,"?  I didn't know that in a six hour period there are SO MANY versions!!!  Each time I felt God's gentle reminder to lay it all down.  Each song brought a whisper from the Holy Spirit to give him the words and he will carry them to heaven for me.  I heard, I acknowledge, but in my weakness I did not respond.

  How could I?  I have so many hurts and burdens.  It is too much for God.  I am not worthy enough to pray and ask for help.  Why would God help me in a mess I created myself?  All lies.  Lies I bought.  Lies I was told by others who though they knew the truth.  Lies the enemy wanted me to remember so that I would feel crippled by the mess and not reach out.  All of it.  It is painful to admit.  It is painful to think about.  It is hard to change those lies.

  Funny thing about those lies.  God is truth.  Why would God the Creator not be big enough to handle the little troubles I endure?  Why would I be expected to come completely worthy to HIM?  Isn't that why Jesus came?  We cannot be possibly worthy on our own.  We are nothing but a vapor.  We are helpless orphans without our Father.  We cannot do anything without His hand orchestrating the moments.  Does conflict come without God knowing it? Nope.  He is completely in control and is not foreign to the emotions we suffer.

Hebrews 4:14-16
 "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence (Greek meaning: freedom in speaking, boldness) draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

  I was wrong in letting my pity hold me hostage.  I was wrong to assume that GOD cannot handle my pain.  I was wrong to believe that the conflict was out of reach for my Creator and I must handle it on my own.  I was arrogant to think I could obtain worthiness without Him so that I would be able to approach the throne of God.  That was my sin.

God,

I don't know what the outcome of this current mess will be.  I don't know how to handle it or how to get past it.  I don't know how to let go of the pain and bitterness so that I can see Your hand working.  I need your help.  I need YOU.  More than anything I want the do-over we as kids asked for at recess.  More than anything I want peace.  I don't know how to obtain that.  I know you do.  I know that you are capable.  Please forgive me.  Please be present today.  Please use me to honor You.  I know you understand, please show me mercy.  I bring to you the conflicts.  I lay each piece at your feet and hope that you will fit them together for Your glory.I can't change anything about anyone else.  I know you can.  I know you can change me.  I need that.  God take all of this and accomplish Your plan.  Please.  Amen