God has gifted me richly with mentors who have contributed greatly to my becoming who I am today! I hold them as treasures and in high regard.
[Names have been changed]
Ben and James who significantly helped get a foundation built within me as I was grappling with the impact of my early childhood and urges towards suicide.
Jake, Barry and Will poured rich nuggets of life into my soul by leading my soul into a paradigm shift regarding God’s love rather than the perspective I lived out of as God as my ‘punitive dorm parent’.
Eddie and other colleagues became mentors offering wisdom for my life journey.
In addition, there are different disciples and apostles who have much to speak into my life.
Yes, they are all worthy of being held in high regard. And yet I find a significant conflict within me in regards to each of these mentors I have listed. One of my strong values is peace and unity. When there is a break in a relationship, my nervous system gets quite unsettled! I feel an energy kick in, an urgency in wanting there to be reconciliation!
So, as I am aware of breaks in relationships between people I hold as examples to learn from and follow, it feels like I have been hit with a curve ball. I am shaken within. I am wanting these people to be examples of how to live in unity even when there are strong disagreements happening. Instead, tragically with those listed above, I have watched for years only to see the lack of reconciliation. Division. Breaks in relationship. It brings me to angst!
This even includes the Apostle Paul. He requested the community in Phillipi to help Euodia and Syntyche to work out their conflict and get along. Great advice. But as we read some of his own history, he cut ties with John Mark and Barnabus. Although Barnabus had taken Paul under his wing after his conversion, for some reason we are not told, Paul was unwilling to take along young John Mark in as he went on his missionary journey, leaving a break in the relationship with Barnabus and John Mark. As far as I can find, we are not told of his recognizing any problem, any ‘log in his eye’, any owning of ‘his stuff’, any working towards reconciliation in his relationship with John Mark and Barnabus. And there was his strong, confrontation of Peter when Paul sensed that Peter was preaching the gospel of grace, while not living it when ‘push came to shove’ and Peter was afraid of what his colleagues would think of him. What happened in the relationship after the confrontation? Did Paul’s anger put Peter on the defensive? Did Peter pull away or justify himself? Was Paul able to live out of a place of offering grace to Peter who was struggling with the expansiveness of God’s grace? Were they able to remain holding each other in a place of respect and honor between themselves and to others in the community?
I wish I could sit down with these ‘leaders’ and grapple with this dynamic. I don’t have all the puzzle pieces as to what happened in any of their relational conflicts so as to understand what cannot be worked through. I do not have a complete update on what they might have sorted out and levels of peace they have attained. This leaves me unsatisfied.
It is not my place to judge any of the people I have mentioned above! I am aware of people in my life whom I want to avoid and stay distant from. I do not always do well in doing my part of working towards a secure bond of unity with those who I do not feel emotionally safe with or hold beliefs drastically different than me.
There is the narcissist whom I feel intimidated by his ‘slippery-ness’, the façade he lives, his great ability with words, the feel of snake oil accompanying his charismatic pretentious front.
There is the one I avoid who intermittently explodes in anger.
There is the one who relates with advice, correction, Bible verses and admonitions.
I am tentative in my connecting with the one who has hurt me deeply.
I want to continue to grow in my capacity to live in harmony with those I experience dissension! And I want to grow in my creativity in fleshing out honor, respect and unity in real life.
In Jesus’ prayer right before His death, He expressed His longing that we would live in the kind of unity that He had with the Father and Spirit.
We are encouraged, if at all possible, to be at peace with everyone. I want life examples of how to live well in relationship when there has been a conflict or rupture!
A smile, relief, encouragement wafts my way as a couple examples come to mind.
I know a lady who exemplifies ‘loving your enemy’ in ways that appropriately shame and motivate me to follow the example of her heart! Over the years I have heard of cards and notes she has written to individuals at work or family members who have been unkind to her. She takes time to pull into focus something in the offender that is a reflection of an unblemished trait God has woven into them, reflecting to them her appreciation for it.
Someone who I’ve walked life with for years went through a painful patch that ended in a divorce several years back. While it is understandable that their marital relationship could not be salvaged, I have been amazed at how uncharacteristically, both individuals have remained mostly caring and kind towards each other. Recently my friend underwent a harsh blow that included a great cost. The former husband and his new wife surprised her with a message that they would be contributing to her financial need!
What refreshing examples of ways to live with connection, honor and active kindness towards those whom a close relationship is not going to happen! To, as much as is possible, live in unity and the offering of peace! To avoid animosity in the midst of the lack of a full resolution.
I want to continue to grow in my capacity to live in harmony with those I experience dissension! I want to grow in my creativity in fleshing peace out in real life disputes.