Have the benefits of your transformed life caused the memories of your previous lifestyle to fade? Do you remember what you once were before Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit entered your life? Can you recall the darkness before you experienced the light? As you see the lost around you, are you aware that apart from God’s grace, you’d be lost too, right there amongst them? Continue reading
Last week I had a client’s wife say something very profound.
“The absence of conflict is not connection.”
Dang! I hate that that saying is right. Sometimes I want so badly to just let sleeping dogs lie and not rock the boat. We’re okay if she’s not mad at me, right? Do we have to engage intense fellowship or can we just leave well enough alone?
You know the answer. I do too. Conflict is inevitable. I’ll even go a step farther and say, Conflict is vital.
Conflict is intimacy too, even though it often doesn’t feel like it. If we always agreed, all the time, not only would it be scary, but it would mean there is no diversity, no alternative view. We would remain stuck inside the same patterns of thinking that blew up our lives in the first place!
I love that Shelley challenges my thinking. I highly dislike the conflict, but when it’s there I know we have the opportunity to go deeper in our relationship. Now that’s different for me. I used to think every fight was just the next iteration of a setback; but it doesn’t have to be. We can go through it and grow through it. Here are 3 keys that help me navigate our conflicts for growth, both within myself and our relationship.
- Reminding myself that I’m not a monster. Silly as it sounds, when Shelley is mad at me it taps into my shame and within seconds I can feel like a big, dumb, idiot that has no business being in any type of relationship, much less a marriage. She can be mad at me for something innocuous, like not putting my shoes away, and I’ll tie it back to my infidelity and jerkiness (I just made that up) from early on in our marriage. Once that train has left the station, every stop it makes is onboarding more negative self talk. So I cannot allow it to depart. I have to fight the earliest inklings of shame with the truth.
- I am not that man anymore. I am a new man.
- God is redeeming me and us.
- I am dearly loved and infinitely valuable. I am not a monster.
- Reminding myself that she’s not a monster. It’s so tempting to make her out to be the villain. Truly, she didn’t wake up this morning to make me feel like an incompetent man or husband; as much as I’d like to assume she did. She didn’t. She isn’t trying to push my buttons (most of the time).
- Reminding myself to listen and try to understand. I want to be heard. I want to be understood. I want to feel respected and like my opinion matters. I want to know she actually cares what I have to say and think. I should get a little grace even if I raise my voice and act like a petulant child. I deserve the dignity of having a voice. Newsflash – so does she. And in my Biblical understanding, I’m called to extend to her what I want and expect. I have to go first. So practically that means not interrupting, correcting, excusing, manipulating, downplaying, blameshifting or going into 50/50 mode. It’s 100/0 at that point. I am 100% responsible for modeling the love of Christ to her by giving her grace, listening and trying to understand. Then I can hope she’ll extend the same in return. Sometimes that happens in a back-and-forth, give and take sort of way. Sometimes that happens in a she-just-has-to-vent-and-I-need-to-zip-it sort of way. No what I mean? Oh and by the way, rarely does she tie something like my misplaced shoes to my infidelity. I do it way more than she does.
Remember, conflict is intimacy too. It doesn’t have to be a setback, in fact it can be a growth moment. I can tell you there have been so many fights that have later resulted in one or both of us saying Thank You to other one, because we saw and experienced such character in the other person, right in the middle of the conflict.
I’m angry today. I’m frustrated. I’m hurt. I’m feeling overwhelmed and a little beat down. More than all that, I’m feeling a sense of resignation. Like giving up.
On what…you might ask…
I was on radio yesterday for 3 hours and story after story, caller after caller had the same situation. Someone in their life has basically looked Jesus in the eyes and said, “Hey, Jesus, your sacrifice was wasted on me. That whole ‘full life’ thing you talked about…nah, I’ll pass.”
Rather than resolve to live in humility, under God’s sovereign wing, surrendering to what he may be calling us to, we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into a dull, mediocre life justified with Scripture, rationalized with the realities of life’s difficulties, medicated with sex, money, alcohol, entertainment, sports and even church. We succumb to the gravitational pull towards brokenness, revenge, entitlement, greed, selfishness and perhaps worst of all, mediocrity.
I just can’t get my head around that Jesus came to earth, was beaten, abused, rejected, kicked out of his hometown, insulted, ridiculed and then murdered. For us. How many times during his life, especially in the 3yr period of his main ministry, did he think about cashing it in? So much easier to have been a fisherman. Or a tax collector. Or a pharisee. Anything other than following God’s call. Anything other than the way of pain and persecution.
But he didn’t give up. He didn’t resign. He didn’t give excuses for why it was too hard. He didn’t sit around pointing the finger at others, complaining about Peter being a hothead or Thomas being a whiner. He didn’t spend his time playing the victim card, trying to make some psychobabble justification for a mediocre life today based upon the fact that his parents forgot about him as a kid. He just, as best I can tell, woke up each day, looked it in the face, and adopted a posture of willingness to be led by the Spirit and committment to faithfully following the Father. He didn’t give up on me. Or you.
So I can’t resign or give up either. Because He didn’t. Hopefully, if you’re struggling with resignation, you won’t let it win the day. If nothing else, as an act of worship and a response to the model before us. Maybe today you decide to stop letting the past define your present, and ripoff your future. Perhaps today you decide to own your junk, and apologize to the people whom you love and have hurt the most. Maybe today you decide that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, but you’ll be the one to take the first step towards fixing it. I hope so.
Strangely enough, after I sat down to write today, I saw Shelley’s latest post. I wanted you to see it too. Turns out we’re channeling the same wavelength – https://rlforwomen.com/whats-breaking-my-heart-today/