Letting Go (Part II) – What’s All the Fighting For?

My new catch phrase is Letting Go.  My slogan may not have the adhesive power to stick around like  Apple’s iconic slogan Think Different. Chances are my slogan would never appear as a sleek #hashtag on social media platforms (#lettinggo).  Webster won’t need to add my phrase TGILG (this girl is letting go, nah) to the urban dictionary along with acronymic giants like YOLO.  I am glad about that because the sobering truth is that pop culture and social media steer society into a labyrinth of “me” centeredness. This prevailing self-absorbed attitude that “it’s all about me,” locks us into the “me” maze leading us down a path of endless relational conflict. 

Throughout my journey as a believer, I’ve learned that dealing with relational conflict requires that I let go of my self-absorbed expectations and see the relationship from an eternal perspective.  My heavenly Father perpetually prepares the soil of my heart for redemptive opportunities. Relational conflict is one way that He prunes my self-centered heart . He pulls and yanks at the stubborn weeds of my arrogance and pride so that I won’t be strangled by them.  
As I progress on this path of Christ following, I have come to view conflict in relationships as a chance for growth and sanctification.  Trust me, it hasn’t come easy. Christian Counselor and author Timothy Lane offers the reminder that “God,who is sovereign, loving, and wise, sends people in our lives so that he might work in us in ways that can only happen in conflict,” ( here’s the pulling and yanking). When faced with conflict in a relationship, I am learning to ask myself what is going on in my heart that I feel the need to remain in conflict with this person rather than pursue them like Jesus would (ouch, the pulling and yanking again).
The book of James offers insight and practical application when dealing with relational conflict. “What causes fights and quarrels among you?James asks.

 

I’ve actually asked this very question to my kids (but not as eloquently as James) when I’ve stepped in to mediate a sibling squabble.  The famous fallback, ineffective, yet, highly used question every parent asks, “Who started the argument?” trills from my tongue like a songbird. The problem remains that I didn’t take the question to the next level which drives home the point James is making in chapter four: it’s not who started the conflict that matters. Finding out what is going on in the heart of those in conflict is what matters most. Sinful motives, according to James, lurk in the corners of relational conflict.
James presses harder on the heart, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” Example: conflict erupts with husband because he did not react the way one expects him to react in a particular situation (cough, cough, speaking from experience). 
How do I handle a season of icy relational conflict that leaves me emotionally battered and bruised?
Buried beneath relational conflict “my passions and cravings are at war within me.”  What is it that I am craving: satisfaction, approval, cooperation, control, security, comfort? My list of unfulfilled cravings unravels as the dark side of my arrogant heart is revealed.
The wisdom of God’s Word has the remedy for my conflict: “Humble myself before the Lord, and he will lift me up.”  Conflict is no longer about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about reconciling with God regarding my self-exaltation.
My new tactic of defense during relational conflict: repent and seek reconciliation. 
During this season of letting go, God’s grace and kindness have taught me to handle relational conflict differently. Conflict, now, forces me to retreat rather than attack.  Retreat not because of defeat but to pray to receive God’s grace and forgiveness.  I must repent for my selfish motive(s), plural here, oh yes, because I often come with more than one selfish motive even in a single conflict. As I follow the wisdom in James, I ask God to direct my path which forces me to let go of my selfish sense of entitlement.
It’s about where my heart is throughout the battle.  Do I pursue the person with whom I am in conflict with a holy love? Most of the time: no. There will be times when reconciliation in relational conflict is not possible right away.  That in itself is another form of letting go and allowing God to work deeper in me or in the heart of the other person.
The upside of this journey is that Jesus didn’t call me to his join his family because I am a flawless, pulled together emotionally perfect addition to His family tree.  It’s rather the opposite.  I am undeserved of His love. I need Him. The beauty of redemption is that I don’t need to figure out a way to climb his family tree; he grafted me into his lineage by way of a crude tree carved into the shape of a cross and planted on Calvary.  The day that tree was planted on the hill, the earth shook and the skies opened and when he tapped my critical, impatient, manipulative, quarreling heart his blood was exchanged for mine.  It’s scandalous to think that Jesus would adopt me into his family knowing that I come fully loaded with issues and flaws that suck life out of His garden rather than add life to it.
So many seasons have come and gone since my heart first yielded to Christ. During this season, I learned to recognize that relational conflict stems from my selfish cravings. Conflict will continue to find me; there’s no hiding from it, minimizing it, or avoiding it.  When conflict smacks me in the face, I will no longer devise a plan of verbal attack or icy disconnect; instead, I will retreat to pray and ask God to reveal the true motives of my heart. 

  •  see the relationship from an eternal perspective
  • embrace the pruning
  • conflict offers opportunities for growth and sanctification
  • get to the heart of the conflict
  • let go of the cravings 
  • realign your heart to His
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