I spent all of last week as a Kaleo (leader) at a Christian sports camp called Kids Across America. I’d been told that as a leader, the whole week would be a “bubble bath in Jesus.” Sure enough, when I got to camp, there was a notecard on my bunk that said just that. This week was about relaxation and rejuvenation and restoration. But for me, it became about so much more. I found myself growing significantly spiritually in all sorts of ways. The most profound though, was during our Men’s Bible study time. The camp director took a room full of pastors and youth leaders and volunteers and walked us through a Biblical view of conflict. I’m hoping that time changed the course of the rest of my life. I know that’s a big statement, but I’m good at making those. And I earnestly want it to be true. Perhaps you can even join me in the change.
During our first session, our teacher asked us to play word association with the word “conflict”. Men all across the room began throwing out words: misunderstanding, hurt, shame, loss, pain. I chimed in with “tension.” I could even feel my body clench as I said it out loud. Conflict has always created that reaction in me. Maybe it’s the peacemaker in me, that whole middle child thing, intervening and settling down and hoping for everyone to just get along.
We would’ve gone around the room again with more negative words and sour faces if it weren’t for Taido, my friend and mentor. There was a lull, a quiet hush, and then Taido spoke up.
“Opportunity,” he said.
“What was that?” our teacher asked.
“Conflict creates opportunity.”
Opportunity? Taido’s good at stuff like this. He has a knack for always flipping the coin to the other side. And usually, the other side of the coin looks pretty good. If not always shinier, at least more interesting.
A light bulb clicked all around the room. Conflict creates opportunity…for good. Sure it wouldn’t be easy, but looking at conflict through the eyes of Christ changed things. Immediately. It was as if a veil had been removed from our eyes. I know I began to see clearly.
You know all that pain and frustration I wrote about yesterday…the kind that came from seeing my friends always hugging and laughing after those “serious conversations”? Well all that rose to the surface because I couldn’t possibly believe that conflict could create anything good, much less anything better than before. I thought of conflict as a necessary evil, not a potential blessing. Certainly not as an opportunity for God to have great victory in our lives.
But isn’t that the story of our God over and over and over again? Isn’t this the God I know and love and follow? Isn’t our God the one who came in the face of conflict and conquered it? On the other side of that conflict, did the Apostles become bitter and broken? Or did they come to life in ways they’d never dreamed of before? Look at the Disciples in the Gospels. Then look at them in the book of Acts. They’re hardly recognizable. So what happened?
Conflict. At its worse. Opportunity. At its best.
You ever set yourself up for failure? I’m pretty bad about it. Big, giant sweeping statements. Writing blog posts about change that’s gonna come. That kinda stuff. I can already tell you where I’ll be weakest. How do I know? Because in the few days since I’ve been back from camp, I’ve already taken note of where I’m still missing the mark.
The little things. Yep, those same little things that I’ve written about before. Love is in the little things, right? And in all the little things, where the conflict usually starts, that’s where I’m forgetting that “opportunity” is still sitting right there, waiting to be discovered and put into action. I find myself waiting to pull out “opportunity” when the BIG conflict comes. When a relationship is falling apart or a friend is let down terribly by a job or bad situation.
But opportunity’s knocking at spilled milk as well. It’s tapping on your shoulder when you and your spouse are communicating terribly that day. It’s whispering in your ear as you’re confronted over something you forgot to do. It’s there beside you as you get tired late in the day and become selfish and lazy. It’s everywhere. In the BIG and little.
Conflict creates opportunity. Do you see it? I’ll keep trying to show you. I’ll keep trying to see it myself. Seeing is believing. Believing in something good out of something bad? That’s everything.