My wife grabbed hold of one end of the rope, and I held the other. Facing each other, we began pulling on the taut cord. Why this two-person tug of war? We were helping some couples see what conflict in marriage can be like. But then—no longer tugging—one of us took a step towards the other. Soon both of us moved to the centre of the now slackening rope until our hands met in unity.
By nearly all accounts, the founder of a prominent multinational technology company was a difficult man to work for. Early on, his abrasive tone and management style caused many employees to leave the company. But those who endured his initial rudeness often came to win their boss’ respect, and eventually developed a productive relationship with him. But that positive relationship was the fruit of a longer process; it certainly wasn’t instantaneous.
The American Civil War involved brother fighting against brother—not only symbolically, but sometimes literally. James and William Terrill were officers who fought for the opposing armies. William broke ranks with his family when he joined the Union side. Both brothers died in battle, never to be reunited.
Sadly, in the five decades I’ve been a believer in Jesus, I’ve known of several local churches that have split due to infighting. Leaders fight, and congregation members rally behind their chosen side. Then the feuding leaders prompt their supporters to form splinter congregations.
The day’s news was discouraging. There was another terrorist attack. Two countries squabbled about a rogue nation’s nuclear weapons. A large Christian denomination divided over differences on marriage, while another split over how best to counter poverty and racism. Conflicts like these aren’t just discouraging, they’re exhausting. They persist—showing no signs of resolution.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, most doctors believed there was nothing better for one’s health than cleanliness. But new research reveals that our bodies require some level of messiness, especially to build up our immune systems and fight off disease. Researchers believe that allergies are so common nowadays because our lives are too clean, and our immune systems can’t decipher between dangerous germs and harmless ones.
Over the past month or so, my wife and I have had some hard conversations. Places of deep hurt have become visible again. As we’ve talked, amid much sadness, I’ve had to reckon with a lasting wound I left on her heart. Years ago, before we were married, Miska and I endured a significant conflict. In that turmoil, I spoke words to her that were foolish and immature, words that lodged into the most tender and vulnerable places of her heart. I didn’t speak in anger or malice, but rather with ignorance and stupidity. I’ve asked her forgiveness multiple times, and she has freely forgiven me. Still . . . the wound is there. My words can’t be taken back.
Reasons? He has many. As he passes several churches during his drive to the park for his Sunday run, he enjoys his solitude. In fact, he reflects on how he can connect with God just as easily—if not more so—on his own. But deep layers of pain, a multitude of rehearsed excuses, and complicated explanations mask a simple reality: Church has not been a safe place for him.
We anticipated an amusing evening at church. Whether it would be the antics of our own kids or someone else’s, we were confident the kid-driven event would elicit laughter. Sure enough, laughter rang out, but my husband and I sat stunned and tried to hide our dismay. What had appeared to others as a funny comment had actually been a joke at my husband’s expense. Though we had felt tension with the couple in charge of the program, the episode exposed the depth of the chasm.
Recently a highly respected journalist from the Middle East reflected on the many complicating issues and unjust events that have led to distrust among political factions in the region. The difficulty that truly captivated me was how belligerent rhetoric and vicious violence will escalate whenever issues become explicitly religious. “We can deal with cultural and even ethnic divides, but whenever God comes into the picture, there’s no way to control the conflict,” the journalist stated. As a result, leaders exert much energy attempting to keep references to God out of political disputes.
Something about my 4-year-old daughter’s outfit looked odd. Taking a closer look, I noticed that her pockets were packed with stones. While our family had been roaming an outdoor area, she had been picking up pebbles and saving them. I had to empty her pockets; it was making it hard for her to walk!
I remember when someone on our church ministry team responded with disbelief upon discovering that my husband and I have disagreements. But I didn’t back away from sharing that we—like any family—had to work through conflict to relate better. Being spiritually mature doesn’t mean we’re exempt from challenges or failure. And it also means being honest, not trying to hide behind a squeaky clean façade.
This week I bought $30 worth of toilet paper in order to qualify for a mail-in rebate. The rebate form told me to address my envelope to “Road to Glory.” Really? I hadn’t slain a dragon or won a championship. I had merely purchased TP. So I laughed at the ridiculous title as I wrote it on the envelope.