Conflict and Our Dustlikeness {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . .

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Conflict. If you’ve been in church work for long, you know what it’s like. People abound, and conflict happens. Then there’s the big blow up or the cold exit or, even scarier, the explosive exit. I’ve been in church work for a decade and a half now, and big blowups and bad exits seem to be the default setting for church conflict. I don’t like this kind of conflict. I run away from it – and from the scary people who cause it.

Kay Bruner likes to say that there are difficult people on the field. I say yes. Yes, there are difficult people on the field, and sometimes, they are ME. Sometimes I’m difficult, and sometimes conflict comes because I am difficult. Not because I mean to be, of course – but my good intentions don’t remove my propensity to offend.

I have a hard time fessing up when I offend, and my reason for this is two-fold. First, I don’t really like the fact that I’m still not perfect and that I still sin against others. The acknowledgement is still so cumbersome to me. But secondly (and perhaps more importantly), I fear I won’t be forgiven. Oh, I know God forgives me; I have full assurance of that. But I still don’t trust God’s people to forgive me. I’ve been in too many relationships where people said they would forgive, but they never really did.

Lately, however, I’ve had ample opportunity to seek forgiveness, and God’s people are proving me wrong. They are forgiving me and showing me the love of Christ in tangible ways. Receiving their forgiveness and their assurance of committed love is an almost sacramental experience. It’s a direct connection with my Savior: someone is sticking with me. Someone is forgiving me, giving me a second chance. That is Jesus in bodily form.

Finish reading the article here.

Dealing with Conflict on the Field. Or not. {A Life Overseas}

Jonathan is over at A Life Overseas today . . .

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Let’s talk about conflict, ‘cause that’s fun. I mean, hypothetically, at some point in the (distant) future, you may or may not experience an uncomfortable disagreement with someone. Maybe.

In this imagined scenario, the ensuing “discussion” could arise between you and your spouse or kids or co-workers, or maybe even — like this would ever happen — yourself.

So, when conflict comes, what will you do? Will you run away scared? Hunker down? Gear up? Lock and load?

Whether your natural tendency is to ostrich or explode, these two principles must be remembered:

Principle #1 – Conflict always has Context

Principle #2 – Conflict always precedes Closeness

How many of you have ever experienced conflict? Go ahead, raise your hands. Do you see all those hands raised? Yeah, me neither, but I’m guessing that all over the world people on their phones or laptops are raising hands. It’s a pretty shared thing, this interpersonal junk. (You can put your hands down now, we don’t want people thinking you’re a weirdo. Oh wait, you’re a missionary. Nevermind.)

Conflict is not something “out there” that other people deal with. This is us. This is our story.

Finish reading here.

A-41: Essays on life and ministry abroad

Purchase the Kindle version of A-41 here.

Purchase the print edition here.

Here’s what Elizabeth has to say about the print edition:

“What I like about the paper copy is that it’s in 8 1/2 X 11 inch format, so it has lots of white space and (ahem) margin to make your own notes, to sort of journal through it, as it were. A lot of our posts really are like journal entries of what God is taking us through, so having a hard copy allows you to journal through those issues on your own, too. Hopefully that’s a blessing to someone!”

If you want to save a couple bucks and you don’t mind clicking a ton of links, most of the content can be read by clicking the various links below. Merry Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by!

all for ONE,
Jonathan T.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Motherhood
Missionary Mommy Wars
The Church: On Not Being the Casserole Lady
I’m a Proverbs 31 Failure

Fatherhood
Failing at Fatherhood (how moving abroad ruined my parenting)

Parenthood & Third Culture Kids
On Your High School Graduation: A Letter to My Third Culture Kid
What I Want to Give My TCKs
A Prayer for My Third Culture Kids
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Third Culture Kid
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Missionary Kid
The Little Word That Frees Us
Particle Physics Finally Explains Third Culture Kids!

Spousehood
The Purpose of Marriage is NOT to Make You Holy
Our Journey to Finding Joy in Marriage (and the things we lost along the way)
Open letter to trailing spouses (and the people they’re married to)
Trailing Spouse: He Heard, “Go!” and I Said, “No!”
3 Ways to Care for the Heart of Your Wife

Singlehood
A Letter to Singles

On Grief, Loss, and Being Really Sad
Outlawed Grief, a Curse Disguised
Grief on a Spindle (a poem)
Don’t be afraid of me, please (and other lessons from the valley)
A Lonely Birthday
For the times when you hold back the tears
Worthless
When Grief Bleeds
When Friends Do the Next Right Thing
A Sorrow Sandwich
Heaven and Human Trafficking

Deeper Musings on Missions and “The Call”
Why Are We Here?
The Idolatry of Missions
Before You Cry “Demon!”
Demon and Divine
What If I Fall Apart on the Mission Field?
How Do You Write Your Name in the Land?

Lists (because they’re fun)
– 10 Reasons You Should Be a Missionary
10 Things Flying Taught Me About Missions
6 Reasons Furloughs are Awesome (sort of)
10 Ways to Survive Your First Year Overseas

On making decisions with your head and your heart and Him
Navigating the Night (3 things to do when you have no idea what to do)
When the Straight & Narrow Isn’t
To the ones who think they’ve failed
Distractions and the Voice of Jesus

Conflict and Anger
– Run Away! Run Away! (And Other Conflict Styles)
Anger Abroad
Angry, Mean, and Redeemed

Things you should probably be aware of if you’re even slightly interested in missions, serving somewhere in the Church, or just living in general
Four Tools of Spiritual Manipulators
How to Communicate so People Will Care
Facebook lies and other truths
margin: the wasted space we desperately need
Please Stop Running
I’m Not Supposed to Have Needs
How to Transition to the Foreign Field and not Croak: Six Essential Steps
Women are Scary (and other lessons modesty culture teaches men)
What To Do About Women’s Roles
Jesus Loves Me This I Sometimes Know
The Journey To Feel Starts Small

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When Ministry and Marriage Collide

by Elizabeth

Jonathan and I have been married almost 15 years now, and I can honestly say being married to him is the best thing that has ever happened to me. We were friends first, then fell madly in love our senior year of high school. Even our first year of marriage – considered by some to be quite difficult – was pure bliss. And I can honestly say that every year after that has grown more joyful and more intimate. This is not to say, however, that we haven’t ever struggled.

I’ve shared before about two of the major struggles in my marriage. I’ve talked about how I didn’t want to move overseas in the first place and how Jonathan and I were at an impasse until God got a hold of me. I’ve also shared my struggle to believe God loves me as much as my husband, since he seemed to have so many more gifts than I have.

There is another difficult season in my marriage that I’ve never discussed online. The two stories I mentioned earlier represent enormous works God wanted to do in my heart and in my spirit. They also had enormous implications in the way I lived everyday life alongside my husband. The struggle I’m going to talk about today might seem more earthy than spiritual, but it still looms quite large in the landscape of my memory.

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Some of you know we served in youth ministry in the States for 10 years. At one point we lived in a Parsonage next door to the church building, and we hosted summer youth meetings in our house. Initially we only invited juniors and seniors to our house on Tuesday nights for Bible study, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Later we started hosting all ages in our house every Wednesday night during the summer. And every Wednesday night without fail, teenagers trashed my house.

This went on for two whole summers. My house was a disaster every Wednesday night, and I had a breakdown every Wednesday night. Jonathan and I could not see eye to eye on this issue and often fought over it. He felt we needed to have the teens in our home, and that I needed to want to have them in our home, and that furthermore, he believed the teens would perceive my reluctance to welcome them into our home, so I needed to check my attitude.

This, as you can imagine, led to lots of stress in our marriage. I wasn’t confident enough to instruct the teens how to throw trash in the trash cans or how to avoid spilling coke all over my white living room carpet. I’m more confident now and would be able to teach teenagers in that way, but I was too intimidated back then. (Also I was much more uptight about cleanliness when I only had two kids as opposed to now, with four.) I just wanted my husband to kick the teenagers out; I wanted him to do it for me. At the same time I felt an intense pressure to let them in my house every Wednesday, or else I’d be a “bad ministry wife.”

Conflict can happen, even when you’re married to your best friend, even when you are absolutely convinced he’s the only one for you, even when you love practically everything about him. We shouldn’t be surprised when we have disagreements with our spouses. We’re different people, and we’ll see the world differently. And when we feel our own point of view so strongly, it can be difficult to imagine someone else’s point of view.

For any of my old darling youth group members who may be reading here today, please know I love you. And I want you to know I miss you all so dreadfully. I’m recounting a problem that was mine, not yours. Probably any of you who still like me enough to read my blog wouldn’t have been the ones tearing it apart in the first place, but either way, it doesn’t matter. This conflict wasn’t about you.

Two years and many, many fights later, we finally got creative in our problem-solving. We finally thought outside the box. This wasn’t either/or. It wasn’t: have them at our house, or they won’t feel the love. It wasn’t: have them at our house, or I’m a failure. It was: let’s have them at our house and not in. We didn’t cancel Wednesday nights at the Parsonage. Instead, we invited teens into our yard (but outside our house).

We gathered around the fire pit for hot dogs and marshmallows, for long chats and pyromaniac adventures. We played volleyball with the teenagers and let all the youth volunteers’ kids play in our kiddie pool. We swung on the bag swing and climbed up the rope on the oak tree. And it was a great compromise. It was hotter outside than in, that’s for sure, but my husband didn’t have to give up teens at his house, and I didn’t have to give up my sanity, my privacy, or my clean house.

I share this story to illustrate that compromises around ministry stressors are possible. For a long time, I saw the problem one way, and Jonathan saw it another way, and as long as we did that, there was no meeting in the middle. We had to get desperate enough to think about things in a different way, desperate enough try something new. I’m such a black and white thinker that our eventual solution never occurred to me (or my husband). In the end he must have figured he had to do something about his unhappy wife, no matter the ministry cost.

Now I look back and think how silly we were that we couldn’t find a compromise sooner. At the time, though, it didn’t feel silly at all. It felt deadly serious, as I’m sure all marriage conflicts do at the time. It took me a long time, but it was a good lesson to learn: sometimes there’s a solution that isn’t either/or. Sometimes there’s a solution that meets both spouses’ needs at the same time. Sometimes we just need to consider other options.

Run Away! Run Away! (And Other Conflict Styles)

Today Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas, talking about conflict:

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I don’t like conflict. I’m scared of it. I don’t want people to be upset with me; I don’t want people to think I’m upset with them. Conflict is stressful and instills in me a strong desire to RUN AWAY. I shut down both physically and emotionally, and I fail to deal with the issue at hand.

I want everyone to be happy. I want this to happen without actually having to talk about the things that make me, and other people, unhappy. But I can’t avoid unhappy situations indefinitely. With 7 billion people on this planet, and no two of us alike, conflict is unavoidable.  I can’t hide away forever from my emotions and the emotions of others.

In mission training I learned that my approach to conflict has a name: I am an Avoider, or Turtle. Turtles believe that any conflict, regardless of what it is or how it is handled, will inevitably harm relationships. We thus avoid conflict at all costs. We hide in our turtle shells and refuse to come out to talk. However, when cornered or forced into conflict we aren’t ready to deal with, some Turtles (like me) might lash out in anger. The typically conflict-avoidant Turtle has now morphed into a Snapping Turtle. Ouch!

Continue reading here.