A few months ago, I came across a statement that went something like this: if you can’t remember the last time you changed your mind about anything significant, than perhaps you’re not willing to grow. About a month after I read that little nugget, a group of guys posed this question to me: how will the way you live your life look different five years from now? Needless to say, the idea of change has been cycling through me like Lance on a climb. I had no desire to become some old, crusty curmudgeon, stuck in my ways to the bitter end. I wanted to grow. And if you know anything about our God, if you admit to being willing to be stretched, well he answers that kind of prayer. Gladly. Certainly. 2011 has since, certainly been a year of growth. Here’s just one of the changes I believe is coming out of me. At least, I sure hope it is.
In 2004, I made what I considered to be one of the wisest decisions of my young life. I decided to move in with three of my best friends into a nice little, apartment right off campus. The ViaChicago boys all living under the same roof for the first…and last…time. Four solid Christian men together, constantly pushing each other further down the road to love and servanthood. Well, that’s what we all desired going into the experiment. But that year was tough. We were all going through difficult things in our personal lives and collectively had a hard time managing expectations for this unit living together…as one unit.
The hardest part, though, was managing conflict. Because we were all “solid Christian men”, we felt the need to constantly correct each other. We’d sit down and have “serious conversations” and poke and prod for the deeper err beneath the error. Frankly, I hated it. And I let it show. All. The. Time.
On a scale of 1-10, my ability at dealing with conflict was somewhere between zero and zero point one. I hate to admit failure, but I sucked at conflict management. Terribly. I’d shut down and roll my eyes and respond with sarcasm. And that’s when I would actually respond. Most of the times I’d do my best to avoid the conversations altogether. I’d dart from conflict like a deer after a rifle shot. There’s a certain story that about me and a 2-on-2 basketball game and a shove and an f-bomb and me sprinting off into the night…but we don’t need to get into that.
As much as I hated being in the conflict itself, though, I hated even more the aftermath of the moment. It just ate me alive. The other three guys would come through the muck and mire with smiles on their muddy, ruddy faces. They were somehow closer than they’d been before. There’d be boyish laughter and manly hugs. Hope would conquer heartache and new life would spring forth like a good rain. For everyone. Except me.
I’d sit there with my head tilted and eyes squinted, looking back and forth at these guys with a strange mixture of confusion and disgust. How could these men enjoy each other’s company right now? How could things magically be all good again? How could anyone be for the better after conflict?
Conflict for me simply created more conflict. It did not create anything of value. And I couldn’t imagine a world in which anything was different. I looked at my friends as inauthentic and insincere. The thought that conflict had crafted them into something stronger, had chipped away and fashioned a faithfulness and fidelity among them was beyond my thought process. Like a toddler with times tables, the concept was not only foreign, it seemed utterly useless. Out of my reach. Until recently. Really recently, actually. Like maybe a week ago recently. A light bulb finally clicked. Better late than never…
And that’s where we’ll go tomorrow.