We struggle to overcome the past: Embarrassing moments. Failures. Misdirected passion. Disappointment. Pappaw used to call such times “misfires.” As in, “Sonny boy, I think you misfired that time.”
Much of life centers around what we do in the aftermath of conflict.
This week the United States government announced that the War in Iraq had ended. Our country has been caught up in a Babylonian Captivity since shortly after the twin towers collapsed. Some say it was a war that didn’t merit fighting. Saddam Hussein didn’t need overthrowing, they suggest. But it happened. No secret cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction found. Yet, a people were released from their bondage to a dictator in the name of democracy. As one soldier told me it created a theater for war against Al-Qaeda on foreign soil to ensure they wouldn’t focus on conflict here on our own turf. It may take decades to come to terms with the truth of that conflict. Some continue to claim it was a misfire. Who knows.
We have a tendency to misdirect our righteous indignation throughout life. The classic example exists of the boss yelling at the employee who goes home and kicks the dog. We hold a value around avoiding conflict. Much suffering is caused by unresolved differences that occur in this way.
This is why I often say in church life that “the issue is never the issue.” Many times conflict is centered on a “presenting issue” that has nothing to do with the real source of difference. Divorce, war, church splits, all happen this way. Being in community will inevitably create conflict between competing loyalties. Those will eventually give way to terminating relationships.
Understanding, patience, and acceptance can only grow when one is willing to place ego aside and make room for differences to exist. The values that lead to such understanding include honesty and openness. Active listening is helpful as well. When differences are determined to be “irreconcilable,” then there is certain grace in separate paths. But I believe we are called to try to tolerate each other before we go our separate ways. Aiming at coming together is better than aiming at destroying one another. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said we should “turn the other cheek.”
God of grace, your Son calls us to unity, to heal broken relationships, to be a united body in his holy name: Grant us grace to aim for oneness, remembering that everyone you created is beloved in your eyes. Forgive us for the conflicts we cause and the misdirection of our hearts. Save us from our own brokenness, and mend us together in your love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.