It’s messy….but beautiful.

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.

 

Forgiveness

I’m sitting here watching an episode of VeggieTales® with Josiah. The lesson is on forgiveness. Forgiveness – my Achilles heel. Forgiveness is hard for me. I feel things very deeply and I’ve got a memory better than an elephant. Add that to a strong sense of justice and you’ve got perfect conditions for bitterness and resentment to bloom. sigh.

Needless to say, Holy Spirit has had to do a lot of work in me. And while I have come a long way, His work is not done and I am schooled frequently in this subject.

I think I’ve struggled so greatly with this issue because often there is no apology. I want a confession of wrong-doing, a public admission of guilt and a vow to treat me better next time. And I want my offender to suffer feel remorse. Without this, I struggle to forgive because I think I deserve an apology and I don’t think they deserve forgiveness unless they admit the error of their ways.

But Holy Spirit showed me that as a follower of Jesus, I’ve been given a different set of guidelines to follow. Those who follow Jesus are instructed to forgive like we have been forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

That’s a tall order, because the way we’ve been forgiven is supernatural. Like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.

  • Psalm 103:3, 10 & 12 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
  • Colossians 2:13 (NLT) You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins.
  • Hebrews 8:12 (NLT) And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.
  • Hebrews 10:17 (NIV) I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.

Think about that.

Abba extends forgiveness to all of humanity – without exception – through Jesus. And His forgiveness is for all of our sins – no exceptions. We choose whether or not to accept it. His extension of forgiveness is NOT contingent upon our acceptance. [the experience of salvation is totally contingent upon our personal acceptance]

He does not give us what we deserve, which is punishment and death. Instead He offers us forgiveness and through it, freedom and abundant life.

He separates us from our sin and chooses not to see us in light of our sin. He does not identify us with our sin. He does not hold them against us. He chooses not to remember them.

That’s powerful. That’s wonderful. That’s amazing. That’s supernatural. And that’s exactly how we are called to forgive others. I told you, it’s a tall order.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t get to choose who we will and will not forgive. We aren’t supposed to give anyone what they deserve but we are to release them from the debt owed. We are to choose not to see them in light of their sin and not to identify them with their sin. We’re to choose not to remember their offense.

And this applies to all offense. From the minor infraction to the most gut wrenching tragedy. Did I mention this is a tall order?

But how? How can we extend forgiveness – the complete forgiveness we’ve received through Jesus – to those who aren’t sorry or don’t want it? To those who clearly don’t deserve it?  How can we forgive when someone has crushed us and our life is in ruins? When we feel like we’ll never recover? When we feel like we can’t forgive? When we don’t want to? How can we do something so supernatural?

We do this through His grace. 2Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. His grace empowers us to do what we could never do on our own. His grace is all we need.

And I see this so clearly in Pastor Davey Blackburn, the husband of murder victim Amanda Blackburn. What a beautiful picture of Abba’s grace. On Monday, November 23rd, Davey said that his hope is his wife’s murderer would “begin to experience the life-transforming power of the Grace and Mercy of Jesus Christ. And, “That Jesus would give me and our family a heart of forgiveness. Though everything inside of me wants to hate, be angry, and slip into despair I choose the route of forgiveness, grace and hope. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Amanda in the 10 years we were together, it’s this: Choosing to let my emotions drive my decisions is recipe for a hopeless and fruitless life. Today I am deciding to love, not hate. Today I am deciding to extend forgiveness, not bitterness. Today I am deciding to hope, not despair. By Jesus’ power at work within us, the best is STILL yet to come. Even when I don’t see it, I believe it to be true.”   [You can see the full article here.]

I love his transparency. I love his willingness. Davey knows this is beyond his ability to endure. He realizes he does not have the strength to forgive. So he is asking for Abba to give him a heart of forgiveness. He is making the choice to love and extend forgiveness. Even though his world will never be the same. Even though he is devastated. Even though her killer does not deserve this. In his weakness, he is drawing from Abba’s grace.

I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. This is taking up your cross and following Jesus. This is walking the narrow road. This is following in the footsteps of Jesus.

This is where I want to be. I pray I never have a challenge so great. But I do pray that in every offense I experience, Holy Spirit will empower me to tap into Abba’s grace so fully that I can draw from His supernatural strength and forgive the way He has forgiven me. I pray that forgiveness is no longer my Achilles heel and that it becomes my natural response to offense.