Wherever two or more are gathered, there you will find conflict. We have seven gathered in our household so it goes without saying, but I will anyway — we have a lot of opportunities for growth in this department.
To that end, I started looking for resources on the subject and ran across Ken Sande’s book, Peacemaking for Families. I was expecting a here-are-three-tips-to-solve-your-problem approach to conflict resolution. I sure didn’t plan on getting convicted in the first chapter.
Sande says the primary reason for conflict centers around James 4:1-3:
What causes fights among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something, but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
In truth, I’ve often dismissed the need to meditate further on this verse — relegating it to more extreme cases of conflict. Note the “kill” portion of the verse. He goes on to say that our desires, even good ones, often become controlling and dominant forces. Once we’ve elevated them above the place God should hold in our hearts, we have given them idol status. We then pressure those around us to pay homage to our idols. Hence, the origins of conflict.
That was a paradigm shift for me and it got me thinking about my own idols.
Like when I get upset with my 2 year old because she embarrasses me by throwing a fit in the grocery store. Being a conscientious parent (and not dealing with a temper tantrum in front of a million people) is a good thing, but if I’m honest, sometimes I’m really angry because I want others to think I’m a great mom. My toddler’s temper tantrum just doesn’t fit into that. I worship my god of good parenting.
Or there’s my shameful impatience with my 11 year old in the midst of her ongoing struggle with math. We all want our kids to excel in school, but truthfully I get angry because I want my friends to think I’m a good homeschooling mom and look upon me with “how on earth do you do it?” admiration. My child’s slow progress with math just doesn’t promote that image. I worship my god of good homeschooling.
And then there’s my all-too-often and so-embarrassed-to-admit anger with my spouse for a laundry list of things that encompass laundry and other things I want him to do around the house that he’s not doing. And I want him to do it on my timetable. Ouch! It’s even hard to type that. Every wife wants help around the house (for the record, my sweet husband helps immensly), but I’ve often held him and the whole family hostage to my god of not only a good, but perfect looking house. I worship my god of good housekeeping.
One of our pastors said recently, “Worship is our response to what we value most.” Boy, was he right! The ugly truth is that what I’ve often valued and worshiped most is myself. My gods — good parenting, good homeschooling, and good housekeeping — are born of and built to my own pride.
But in God’s love and mercy — He will not allow competition to go on forever.
It is as Charles Spurgeon said of the graven images of the Old Testament, “False gods patiently endure the existence of other false gods. Dagon can stand with Bel, and Bel with Ashtoreth; how should stone, and wood, and silver be moved to indignation; but because God is the only living and true God, Dagon must fall before His ark; Bel must be broken, and Ashtoreth must be consumed with fire.”
Only one stands alone.
Conviction is painful, though sweet. Transformation is gradual and rarely immediate, but as I head into another school year, I’m asking the Lord to demolish my good gods. To show me the difference between navigating healthy desires and needs vs. demanding servitude to them. To purge me of my pride. To open my eyes yet again to the wonder of who He is. And in so doing, worship the one, true, living God.