I’ve decided that conflict resolution is a lot like having a baby.
I remember when I went into labor with Gabrielle. She was my first baby, and I had no idea what to expect. Other than being a bit early, it was a “normal” delivery. In the end, my mind was totally blown over the wonder and miracle of life.
Danielle’s delivery was nothing like Gabrielle’s. It was unexpected, unusual and traumatic. This time, the phrase “miracle of life” really had meaning. (I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.) Nothing about it matched my experience with Gabrielle. But still, my mind was blown. Not only by the wonder of life, but also by the goodness of God.
Stefan’s delivery, though early, was “normal” like Gabrielle’s. I remember going to the hospital and getting settled in a room. And as the reality of the next few hours settled on me, I looked at Bill in complete seriousness and said, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I’ve changed my mind. Is there another way?” I considered the thought of staying pregnant forever.
In shock, Bill responded, “What? It’s too late now. There’s no other choice. You’re having a baby. Today.”
Fear gripped my heart as I remembered the excruciating pain from my previous deliveries. I started to cry as I remembered how relentless the contractions were. The nausea. The inability to get relief. To be comfortable. The extreme exhaustion that followed that caused uncontrollable shaking. I panicked.
I told Bill I wanted the baby. I wanted to hold the baby. I’m ready for the baby. But I don’t want to do delivery. I can’t go through this again.
His gentle words reminded me of what I already knew to be true but could not see in the face of fear: in order to hold the baby I wanted so badly, I would have to go through the process (that word!) of delivery. There was no way around it.
Since I couldn’t figure out an alternate plan, I proceeded with delivery. It was painful. It was messy. Uncomfortable. Exhausting. As Bill held my hand and encouraged, supported and comforted me, I journeyed through the process to birth. In the end, I held my sweet baby boy. And there were no words. Mind blown again.
Relationships. I want this person in my life. I want to journey with them. I want to share experiences with them. I want to love them and be loved by them. But unfortunately, in every relationship journey there is conflict. Regardless of who – parent, sibling, spouse, child, friend, co-worker, neighbor – it’s nearly impossible to have authentic relationship without an issue of some sort.
And I panic at the idea of conflict. I want the relationship, but I’m terrified of conflict.
To be honest, my first response is to abort. I don’t want the excruciating pain that comes from words that hurt (words of affirmation is my #1 love language). I don’t want the exhaustion of drama as I try to understand what they meant by that look or that comment. I hate the knots in my stomach that come from the tension between us. I don’t know how to get relief or how to be comfortable with them again. I don’t think my heart can bear to go through this another time. So it’s easier to just let that relationship go – to pretend there is no problem as I build a wall between us – instead of going through the process of resolution.
But like Bill, Jesus gently reminds me that in order to have the relationship, I must go through the process of working it out. There is no way around it.
Each set of circumstances will be different, but I know in every instance I’ll have to open up and communicate. I’ll have to be transparent and vulnerable to share what’s in my heart. How I feel. What I perceive. What I need. I’ll have to listen to more than their words, but hear what’s in their heart. To understand their perspective. To see what they need. I’ll have to be ok if we don’t see the situation the same way. I’ll have to know that resolution is not them agreeing with me. It’s not me changing their mind.
It may get messy. It may be painful. It may take time. Forgiveness and understanding will be required. Grace will be needed. But Jesus will faithfully stay by your side to comfort your heart as He helps you navigate through pain. He’ll support and encourage you to maintain connection.
And in the end, it’s worth it because your mind will be blown. At the wonder of seeing their heart. At the miracle of really knowing them. Of authentic connection. Relationships are a lot of work, but there’s beauty in a relationship that’s weathered a storm. The connection is deeper. The love is greater. The bond is stronger. The journey is sweeter.
I’ve aborted a lot of relationships in my life. I couldn’t endure the pain. I wasn’t willing to be uncomfortable. I was terrified of rejection. Transparency was paralyzing. Authenticity not an option. I didn’t think I could endure the heartache. But I don’t want do that anymore.
Romans 12:9 (NLT) tells us to Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Do all you can to maintain a healthy connection to people. Every person. He tells us this because we need people in our life. Because He works through people in our life. Because we can’t keep discarding people and continue to make a difference for the Kingdom. Because when you are a promoter of peace, you’ll be blessed and identified as His child. Matthew 5:9 (NLT) God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
I regret every aborted relationship. So, as messy as it can be, I want to work through conflict in order to have the beauty of relationship. I want to live in peace with every person in (and outside of) my life so I don’t miss an opportunity to experience an aspect of the journey.
Note: I delivered all my babies drug/epidural free. So, don’t panic. And don’t decide not to have children based upon my description. You can always opt for a pain free option. Which is what I was wishing I had done as I delivered Stefan.
Here are all my sweet babies as newborns – Gabrielle, Danielle and Stefan. I can say, the mess has been worth the beauty they bring to my life.