I’d been waiting for this tiny package to be delivered. Maybe you’ve been in this spot, you know, where you are checking the shipment updates for the glorious day when the status changed to “out for delivery.” Seems silly now, but that package was a little special to me. I’d bought a pair of necklaces, one for me the other for my eldest daughter.
The day came, the UPS truck drove in and my little bubble wrapped envelope was in amongst the boxes delivered to the office. But as I opened the package, what had started with a bit of joy akin to Christmas morning quickly turned to disappointment as I discovered the chain of necklace #2 was quite tangled.
I don’t like tangled necklace chains. Why? First, I’m not very good at getting the knots out. Second, working out a knot often means you have to make the mess bigger before it can get better while the tangle is worked through. Third, I’m petrified of breaking the chain.
But I have another problem, I
can’t won’t wear a necklace with a knot in the chain; I literally dislike it so much, I just won’t do it. As the disappointment fully set in I weighed my options.
So I sat looking at this brand new, tangled necklace and had to make a choice… and, reluctantly I decided to begin the tedious work to unknot it.
Life gets tangled too, you know… there is a reason why the “human knot” activity is a popular team building activity… necklace chains aren’t the only things that get in knots. When people get in knots, well… things get quite messy. Knots come in many forms:
- unmet expectations
- broken relationships
- hurtful actions
- lies and slander
- being left out
It seems to me that all too easily life can get so messy. Even when things are going well, it doesn’t seem to take much for things to go downhill fast almost as if the smallest motion upsets the whole thing resulting in a big tangled mess. In the midst of what seems like the inevitable, God has really been challenging me with this:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
This verse speaks truth and yet my weary heart responds: but.life.gets.so.tangled…
“live at peace with everyone”
I’ve lost count of the number of times that phrase has run through my head… echoing in my mind… “live at peace with everyone…”
Life is messy and things get tangled even easier than necklace chains.
That day with my necklace I made a choice… the reality is… I didn’t tangle that chain, it arrived that way. I guess I could have sent it back… Could have bought a new chain and discarded the mangled one… It was an option to pass on that mess and give Lily the knotted necklace… In frustration I could have rushed and broken the chain… Instead, I made the choice to methodically, carefully work the knot out of that chain.
We face choices every day with the “knots” in life. How do we respond?
There are times we throw up our hands in frustration. After all, we didn’t start the problem, we shouldn’t have to fix it.
Other times we walk away, brokenness isn’t worth our time, its easier to start anew.
Maybe we decide to pass that problem on to someone “better equipped” to handle the situation.
In anger and desperation, we respond harshly and that knotted life circumstance gives way like a broken link on a necklace chain.
We can sigh and decide it would be just easier to ignore the knot and go on with the tangle intact.
Facing tangles in life we have choices on what we’re going to do in response. So, I ask this question: What does it look like to honestly live this out?
How do we learn to live this way in the face of conflict, when our lives teach us and our gut reaction is: run away, hide, blow it up, pass it on, or fight to the death?
We’ve got to be honest about a few things:
- Some conflict is not of our doing. There are times we inherit a mess that we didn’t create. Just like my necklace arrived in a knot, there are situations that a problem arises beyond anything we could control. While these may be rare situations, how will you respond when you find yourself in the middle of a mess you didn’t create?
- We have default ways of dealing with conflict. Our autopilot response can be a weakness and therefore be a detriment to the situation. But we also have personality traits and gifts that when we allow, God can use to His glory and or good even in these knotted situations.
- Not everyone is looking for reconciliation, interested in forgiveness or seeking truth. This is an unfortunate reality that we are not in control of; however, we are in control of how we respond to the situation no matter the motives of others.
- The struggles we face is a spiritual battle. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood and our response should address the spiritual component to the face-to-face conflicts.
-When you need wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
-How to listen: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” James 1:19-20
-How to respond: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
-How to confront: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Galatians 6:1
-When the way is unclear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
These are the truths I’ve been meditating on from God’s word as I work through the realities of the tangled messes of life. How is God challenging you to, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”? What truth(s) from His Word speak wisdom and instruction to you today?