confessions of a conflict-avoider

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I once lied to my husband and kids about who drank the last cup of coffee. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I thought, “Sheila, you just lied to avoid conflict about coffee.” I realized how rediculous it was, lying about coffee.

“Eh-hum, I’m sorry guys.” The boys were getting ready for school, my husband making himself some scrambled eggs. They all looked up at me.

“Sorry for what mom?” my 9 year old asked.

“I lied.”

Six wide eyes were looking right at me.

“You lied?! About what?” My husband asked in a suspicious tone.

“I lied about the coffee. I drank the last cup of coffee.”

“Why would you do that?” my husband was perplexed. He’s the in-your-face type. He thrives on conflict.

“I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t want to deal with you getting upset about the coffee.”

“Upset? Why would I be upset. I’d just make another cup.”

“I know it’s rediculous. I’m sorry.”

I turned my eyes to my sons who were watching this vingette in the kitchen play out like a suspensful sci-fi movie.

My tendency to do whatever it takes to avoid conflict and the work of Christ in my life to change that inclination in me is, for me, one of the greatest evidences that Jesus Christ is real. My conflict-avoiding bent, combined with being a female raised in an ultra-conservative church, has been almost a perfect storm in which I’ve nearly shipwrecked my faith.

When you’re personality lends toward being the peacemaker, being the mediator, doing whatever you can to make sure everyone’s happy and there’s no tension, and you’re taught that God wants you to be submissive and quiet because you’re a woman, you can easily be duped into thinking you’re being godly when you’re really drowning in a sea of sinful brokenness.

There is no linear, superficial, canned, boxed, flat way with Christ. He is the word made flesh.  I can type these words on a screen, and they may be true, but without a tangible embodiment, they can be employed in a way I never intended in writing them. What God’s word says about submission, being quiet, womanhood and peacemaking is true in the way Jesus lived it on, not in the way we misconstrue words on a page. Embodied word is complex and looks different in different situations.

I believe the humility of Christ, that submits himself to others, although he is free, is a characteristic of all Christians, not just women.  And I believe there is wisdom in being quiet- for both men and women.  But there’s a time to be quiet, and there’s a time to speak.  There’s a time to submit and there’s a time to resist.  There’s a time to make peace and there’s a time to turn some tables.

Even Jesus said both that he came to give us peace and that he came not to bring peace but a sword.  So which is it Jesus?  It’s both.  He came to bring peace, not as the world gives, not by trying to make everyone happy, but by his faithful and soveriegn goodness.  And he came to bring a sword, not to kill people but to do surgery on men’s hearts, harvest a field and cut down lies.

When you’re a conflict-avoider like me by nature and Jesus comes in, he turns over all kinds of rugs and shades and dividers and lies we use to bring a fragile sense of “peace.” But it’s no real peace. Since Christ came crashing into my life at 16 he’s been taking me out of my padded passivity into courageous action.  Even in the smallest things like confessing lying about coffee.

I’m amazed as I look at my life and see what he is doing.  I would be a cowardly, lying, self-preserving, brown-noser, surrounding myself with people who made me comfortable or hiding in a convent if it weren’t for Jesus.  He makes me brave.  Where I have thought I was being submissive, he’s shown me I’m just being passive.  Where I thought I was being quiet for the sake of peace, he showed me I was enabling sin by not speaking the truth and shining a light.

I still hate conflict, but I find Christ in me compels me to go towards what I would usually shy away from.  And that is evidence that his life is really at work in me.  Which is a real life miracle!