May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
I know there is much that can be gained from conflict, but oh how I hate the stuff.
From a fight with my wife, to debates about politics, to sharp disagreements in the workplace, conflict wrecks me.
It usually starts at 4am the day after. I wake up, and it’s already over. Tossing and turning for hours, in the silence my mind drifts to retorts and rejoinders, re-hashing arguments as I try to land a new hypothetical jab. I might as well get up and start my day. I often do. The frustrations linger with me in my quiet moments, those intended for devotion or reflection. I try to approach God, but my mind is anxious and prone to wander back to the original argument. I eventually distract myself with work or errands, but this eventually gives way and I repeat the vicious cycle of rewinding past conflict like a video and playing it out over and over again.
I’ve seen conflict lead to good, and know God uses it, but I rarely see this for what it is, and it’s only by God’s grace that good seems to emerge. In fact, the way I handle–ha! more like juggle and drop–conflict is one of the things that makes me wonder why God called me to the lawyering profession, almost predicated on fractious disagreement. What can be done?
I was recently reminded that surrender is a beautiful thing in God’s upside-down Kingdom. It’s not just something to admire from a far, but integral to the life of faith–to my life of faith.
For all my complaining about how rotten conflict is, if I’m honest I’m attracted to the scuffle once it breaks out, like a fly to a restaurant’s open dumpster. In my inner life I can vindicate myself–I can get the final word in. I can re-imagine what I said and did, clarify my argument, say something differently. But dwelling on this this leads to bitterness, frustration, alienation–even hate.
Instead, I must surrender. I must die to myself. To my people-pleasing. To my need to be right. To my desire for success. To even being understood. I must remember Christ is the one who ultimately vindicates me, and I can boast in nothing else, cling to no other.
This seems hard in the real, fleshly world. And it is. Even after being reminded of this call to surrender, I’ve had a week wracked by new conflict, and for the most part, I’ve fallen into my same, dull patterns. But this has to be one of those flickering, elusive blessings of conflict I so often miss out on: there’s the chance to see God move dramatically when we lay our lives down, and the fresh chance to surrender the next time conflict emerges. We know Jesus was crushed, willing to take my burdens upon himself so that I wouldn’t have to be similarly broken.
So whether in the courtroom, or boardroom, or bedroom, he makes my conflict bearable.
What about you? How do you try to deal with conflict once it erupts?