As a fiction writer and reader, I love conflict. Bring it on! The more the better. Is my character brokenhearted from a nasty breakup? Awesome. Let’s have her get fired from her job too. Cool! Oh, and maybe she could struggle with a secret jealousy of her stepsister. Yippee!
But conflict in my own life doesn’t make me whoop with glee. Nope. Instead, my chest tightens, tears well up, and joy fizzles.
The thing is, as a mom, life bristles with conflict. Our family’s been on vacation for a few days to an amazing spot on the Olympic Peninsula. The perfectly warm weather matched the sparkling blue sky. The rhythmic lapping of the water in the bay brought a sense of peace and awe.
And yet … conflict arose, even in this idyllic setting. The first born bossed the others relentlessly. The girl broke into frustrated tears. The boy irritated his siblings by constantly invading their space. And the littlest wept because she didn’t get to sit in the tall chair at the island.
These kinds of conflicts pretty much paint my life. I’m used to them, and although I definitely get fed up at times (up to here! *hand rises to forehead*), I generally brush them off and return to the sense of fun and love I try to exude to my family.
Another conflict arose on this trip too. One that tested my fortitude a bit more. My daughter really wanted to use her own three dollars to rent Despicable Me. But we already have it coming from Netflix. Should be there when we get home. We advised that spending her hard-earned three dollars on something we were already getting might not be the wisest decision. Oh, how sad this made her! The agony of deciding between what she really really wanted and what her parents thought best! Tears flowed as she finally made the prudent decision. I was so proud of her, but her sadness created tension in the family for a while.
And then there’s also the conflict that stings. Really stings. Today I was confronted with something I did that hurt someone I love. I didn’t mean to. It sprung, I think, from a misunderstanding. But I feel terrible that those who trusted me felt taken for granted. And perhaps I’ve fallen a bit in their eyes. This sort of conflict, unintentionally hurting someone I love, isn’t so easy to brush off. I rehashed it over and over in my mind and had to force myself to focus on making a fun vacation day for the kids. I shed a few tears.
As much as it hurts when faced with conflict—whether it’s the everyday stresses, like bickering children; more intense frustrations, like a Despicable Me disappointment; or painful hurts in relationships, like the one I experienced today—I’m pretty sure there’s a way to be thankful. A way to see conflict as good. There’s got to be, right?
Especially since my cardiac arrest, I’ve realized that growth comes through pain. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 ESV
If it dies, it bears much fruit.
It’s the dying, the aching pain, the frustrations, the rejections, the disappointments … that bear fruit. I often pray that I will bless others, grow in my love for Christ, and increase in wisdom as a wife and mom. Could the conflict I face be an answer to my prayers for growth?
Well, only if my heavenly Father loves me enough to care that I grow. Oh yeah, He does.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11ESV