The Upside of Conflict:7 Ways to Look at Your Next Disagreement

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So, here’s the thing with conflict, I hate it.  It makes me uncomfortable mainly because I am awkward with it. I want to talk my feelings out and I know most people are not good with that mainly my husband.  I usually have no filter when talking my feelings out because I feel that communication is good therapy, again not everyone agrees.

I mostly hate conflict because I see it as a negative, I usually want to run and hide from it. I don’t like to face it head on because I know I can be a bulldozer when I really want to be a sweet, gentle little lamb.

Let’s define conflict, it’s a noun and it’s also a verb.  As a noun it is a sharp disagreement but as a verb its to be{come} incompatible (according to dictionary.com) It can easily stay a noun but depending on your personality (not mentioning any names) it can quickly climb to verb status.  I am gonna be more real here than when I mentioned my shoe addiction, obsession, habit {denial:} It’s gonna hurt my pride but it has to be done.

As I moved from South to North East I realized the stark difference in “Christianity”.  I am having to come to terms with what God’s people really look like.  Why! I thought they all looked just like me! HAHA not really.  Does this sound familiar?  I’ll admit quickly that mercy is not high on my spiritual gifts and yet it isn’t an option.  I’ve been stuck in a theological bubble for a really long time, not a bad thing when you’re growing and learning God’s word but at some point you’re going to meet other Christians who don’t really believe like you do theologically or practice their faith like you do and yet God still loves them.

When I took my Meyers Briggs personality test there was a big fat J at the end of my letters. (Gotta take the test to know) If you don’t know what the big fat J is it’s for judger. Well, it’s true. I am.  I hate to admit that but I know I am not alone.  This isn’t just a confession it’s also a challenge for you reading this where ever you’re from (North, South, West, where ever!); we all got some judgement genes.  No one’s immune, not if your democrat, republican, poor, rich, a minority or not, judgement comes in all shapes, sizes, political platforms and the best bible study groups.

And so moving here has not just been a mission trip of sorts but a seminary class on the subject of love and acceptance.

At the root of conflict is difference, not bad but when not kept in check it can escalate to  judgement and pride. I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s take one of the most godly people in the bible, Paul and his best bud Barnabas and let’s dissect the disagreement they had that was apparently note worthy for Luke to mention (the writer of Acts) or else we wouldn’t be reading it today;)

Read: Acts. 15:36:41

Paul and Barnabas agreed on the most important part, their mission together: to visit other Christians in the towns they had preached to and encourage them.  But when it came to the details Luke notes that they disagreed sharply. In Hebrew the word is ‘irritation’.  Conflict arose because they had a difference of  opinion that resulted in irritation.

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. Acts 15:37-38

At this point in the passage there is a crossroad.  Paul could’ve A.) agree with Barnabas (that’s called a stuffer, stuff your feelings and go with the flow…totally not encouraged;) B.) disagree but submit his will to Barnabas and take Mark anyway (or vice versa) but I mention Paul because he is the beloved Apostle and our fearless leader. C.) Disagree, sharply (apparently), tell him your point of view, be logical in the situation and break away from the situation.

Paul was obviously the logical one in the relationship (not bad, just different), Barnabas was the one who could overlook flaws. Maybe he was an enabler (I don’t know!!!) but he was willing to overlook what happened in Pamphylia and welcome him back into the circle of friends.

The point is this, yes there was conflict and scripture doesn’t reprimand either man for the conflict that took place.  The point of the conflict is for us to see God’s greater plan at work even in this.  When we study scripture we can find countless passages on dealing with difficult people.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you Eph. 4:32

Maybe Paul felt it wise not to proceed with Mark because he’d hold them back from the real mission God called them too.  Maybe, that was his way of keeping peace by going his own way.  I don’t know!!! But friends separated, opinions were voiced, different paths were taken.

But because God’s purpose in our life and mercy is so much greater than our messes and stupidity and foot-shaped mouths there can always be a turn around like in the case of Paul, Barnabas and yes, even Mark.  Happy Endings are God’s idea.

We see this turn around in 2 Timothy 4:11b.

…Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Paul’s heart softened towards Mark.  The book of Timothy marks Paul’s last words and with this small statement we can conclude that there was much growth since the first remark Paul made about Mark.  Both men has grown in the faith and love for one another.

Here’s the take home, conflict hurts but we can have a different perspective next time it occurs, as in we can keep the conflict a noun, something that occurred but keep it from {be}coming a verb, incompatible. Cause who likes incompatible people anyway?

During your next disagreement remember the outcome that is possible in Christ; keep your mind on these seven:

  1. Reconciliation.  We say separate, He says reconcile.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

I know a little about this because you know the last article I wrote about, the one about my husband leaving me,  well, the turn around on that story is that 3 years later we were reconciled and married again. Long story, that’s for another blog post but in the end God won and he is still winning in our marriage after 13 years.

2. Hope.

We have real hope in Jesus. When I was newly divorced I had heard a story about a wife that was left by her husband for drugs, women, and the night life but she remained faithful and prayed for him for seven years.  Now, he is a renown evangelist who loves Jesus and his wife.  Because of their story I had hope to pray for my husband. Although I didn’t expect or want reconciliation at that time I prayed for peace and salvation. We always hope that conflict can have a positive outcome.

3. Keep your eyes UP.

We shouldn’t stop doing God’s will or living out His purpose simply because we’ve hit a rough spot in our road of life.  Had Paul stumbled on his way and given up his purpose we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament. Paul went on to write 10 books of the New Testament (indisputably).

He went through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches. Acts 15:41

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. Acts 16:5

Separation can be used for good in God’s economy. When Christians divide we can spread God’s love more abundantly and thoroughly.  God uses that time to strategize on spreading his Word by using His people even when they are in the midst of conflict…if we let Him.

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. Acts 15:39b

4. A softened heart.

At the end of Paul’s journey in Timothy we see Paul’s heart towards Mark changed and softened to the point he wanted Mark with him because he had been helpful in his journey. God had a chance to work on Paul’s heart.  Paul gained hind sight and perspective on the loss of a brother in the work of God.

God has a way of doing that.  The last words my {ex} husband told me was that he wasn’t in love with me.  In the 3 years that we were apart God had radically changed his heart. My husband’s heart not only softened towards me but I became the woman of his dreams, not because of anything I had done but because of the time we had spent alone with the Lord.

5. Stronger Relationship(s).

Not only did God restore the relationship between Mark and Paul; we see their relationship stronger than in the beginning of their journey together.  Paul is now requesting for Mark to be by his side for the last stretch of his mission.

A few years ago I sat on a ministry team where there were many differences of opinions.  Nothing revolutionary when you get a bunch of women together;) At one of our meetings our mission was side tracked due to confusion about the mission and the passion some of us had for a different direction. The team was in trouble.  One of the women on the team said that conflict thickens relationships.  I was hoping she was right.  I liked the team I was on and I wanted more than anything for there to be resolution and for us to get back on track on the main mission of the team.  It never happened.  The team dissolved, feelings were hurt and relationships broken.  The leader moved away, many of the ones left behind had some issues to resolve on their own and many were hurt long after the team broke up.  Although the leader of the team never got to experience the “thickening” she talked to me about the rest of us did because we were willing to stick it out and not quit. We didn’t leave church, we stuck to the mission He gave all of us and were willing to love.

6. Spiritual Growth.

It’s obvious from this story that everyone grew not only in age but spiritually.  This doesn’t always happen after conflict.  Conflict often leaves us angry, disillusioned, sad, broken, separated, and scarred but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Conflict can make us stronger in our walk with God and mature us enough to handle the next big things in life.

As the years go by with my man I realize there are things we can handle easier now than we could’ve in the past.  We realize we can’t make our relationship work on our will, we need God. Remember his last words to me? Funny how God always has the last laugh!! Marriage is hard and every year can make us stronger not weaker but we need Jesus.

7. Love.

We can agree to disagree agreeably.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean hate.  Disagreement doesn’t have to mean incompatibility.  We can disagree and love at the same time.  We disagree and agree to act loving any way.  Love doesn’t equate agreeing.  When Jesus came to earth it wasn’t because He agreed with us, on contrary, He came because He disagreed with the darkness we were living in and came to rescue us from it.  Conflict can lead to love if we let it.  More than ever our country needs to realize this truth. Christian, we can love and disagree, remember it’s the thing that sets up apart.

The challenge here is to choose the 7 outcomes of conflict.  When our perspective changes we can begin to see past the yuk of conflict.

 

 

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The Cure for Fear Lies in 2 Simple Antidotes

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We moved homes in 2010 from city-life to country -life and I was in for a big surprise.  Up until then I had been raised in a big city and never lived in any other type of environment except a big city.  The lights, the noise, the bustle, yes and even the pollution (that you don’t even realize you miss until you move to the middle of NO WHERE) were all craved luxuries.  I’ll preface that by mentioning we had lived in a rural town, rural as in it only had 5,000 people in the entire town, a Piggly Wiggly, and a Walmart. We moved right after college  due to my husband’s first job.  We tried to get out of there as fast as we got there. Because again, I am (at heart) a city-girl. Ain’t no shame in that.

But after moving back to the city we began to miss the quiet of the country, the stars ( I had no idea you could actually see them so close or at least they appear that way when smog is not invading the view) and the space, oh the space and need I mention the privacy.  Oh! the irony of hindsight!

So, naturally we decided to buy in the country, a beautiful home on 2 acres with wide open spaces and a little creek to boot in a small country town in Texas not too far from city life and yet definitely rural enough you could hear cows mooing and giving birth (as I’ve come to understand the noise to be).  Maybe we were growing up.  It was time to give this country thing a chance.

The first day of move in I excitedly began unpacking and putting my beautiful country kitchen together. As I opened our first box and reached in to grab a pot I suddenly jumped 10 feet back (yes, 10 feet people, ok, don’t argue!) I screamed and ran across the other side of the house and I would not come out of the room I ran to.  I saw a spider. The size of a shoe. Yes a shoe! Listen, size doesn’t really matter…in this situation.  It was a spider and I had never seen one like that before.  I called my dad (not sure why, he lived 8 hours away not sure what I thought he could actually do for me at that point) I was sure he had some reason I had to hear however.  He always does. He’s one of those dads.  He did manage to calm me down and did remind me that it wouldn’t kill me.  He also reminded me that it is probably more afraid of me (remember those annoying little talks when you were little and you were afraid of mice and roaches and they’d {the voice of reasons in your life} would tell you that they’re more afraid of you.  I wasn’t buying that one but it made logical sense. I eventually came out of the room and mustered up the will power to get some windex and windex him to death. Eventually they were EVERY WHERE. EVERY. WHERE. After an entire week of knots in my stomach and anxiety and missing the city,  I had to figure out who these spiders were and what they wanted with me.  Found out actually they aren’t poisonous at all, they weave the most beautiful webs and they actually help me out by killing and eating more gross things and pesky things.  So I decided we’d be distant friends. I overcame my fear. Her name? The Orb spider.

When I read the Apostle Paul’s story in Acts 21 I thought about fear in a very real way…not like my pathetic city-girl fear of spiders way.

Acts chronicles Paul’s journey from Christian slayer to Christian martyr.  His transformation is no doubt the invisible hand of God at work in a man whose purpose in life was to glorify God by telling ordinary people about the extraordinary love of Jesus, to give the European and Asian world a taste of the love of a Savior even unto death.  He faced shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, black-balling, stoning, hate and eventual death.  He always knew he was going to die for Christ.  One of those most astonishing things he says is in verse 12. His friends are crying because he tells them he might not see them anymore.  He’s headed to Jerusalem and the Jews want him dead.  Paul is forewarned of his imminent death and yet knows he has to face Jerusalem.

And he says, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? “

(Not sure bout you but I’d be weeping and bawling, wrapping myself in my friends arms, throwing myself on the floor, trying to escape reality, it would be an outright drama scene) but he continues,

“I am ready not only to bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I believe that Paul just like Jesus feared death.  But fear was overcome with 2 powerful weapons: knowledge and perspective

  1. Knowledge (of the “unknown”): he knew the “unknown” possibility because God prepared his heart for it.  I believe God wants to prepare our hearts for the bumps and bruises, sufferings of life and yes even death if we let him.  When fear grips us it’s usually because we have no knowledge of our purpose in Him.  Know your purpose and fearful situations won’t keep you from walking in {His} strength.
  2.   Perspective: Paul knew what was important.  He saw life as a gain and he saw death as a gain.  If death is the worse thing that could happen to us then the outcome is pretty victorious. I’d take one day in heaven over a million here. However if you are on the other side and you don’t know what the outcome of your death will be then fear can be crippling.

Let’s live like Paul!

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know.…”

What is your hope in fearful situations?  What’s your biggest fear? Do you get crippled with fear?  How do you handle fear? What steps do you take?