Last summer the Desilets spent a few days vacationing with our good friends, the Melhorns, at a beautiful cabin in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. One of the best features of this cabin was the wide porch that wrapped around three sides of the house and included lounge chairs, a hammock, and a even a swinging bed! And one of the best features of this porch for our friends (who are parents of a toddler) was the locking gate at the exit.
When you’re a little one and there are bigger-little ones all around you, you want to do what they’re doing and go where they’re going. The big kids, of course, wanted to be on the swinging bed, so naturally, Emmy wanted to be there also. All she had to do to get there was walk the porch all the way around to the other side of the house, but there was a problem: she knew about the shortcut.
Emmy knew that the way outside the gate and around the back of the house was faster – and more exciting! So she would stand at the gate, peering out, hoping that if she stood there long enough (and made enough noise) someone would give in and open it for her. We never did, of course, but that didn’t stop her from trying!
As adults, we know Emmy’s pain well because we also love shortcuts – why take the longer, harder way when there’s a shorter, easier route available? Even if that road has potential pitfalls – we’d still rather unlatch that gate and take the risk!
Over the past couple of weeks at our church we’ve been learning about a subject most of us wish there was a guaranteed, safe shortcut around – conflict. One of our elders, Bill Buelow, has been sharing with us biblical truth about disagreements between believers and what God has to say about resolving these issues and restoring peace.
No matter how much we don’t like conflict, we’re humans, which means we have a soul characterized by desire, emotion, and passion.* We also have a sinful nature that skews that desire, emotion, and passion toward the wrong things. So, as we interact with other humans, conflict is inevitable – and this week Bill gave us several practical steps we can follow from God’s word as we seek to restore peace in our relationships.
In a nutshell, these steps include:
1) Evaluating your own actions, motives, and ego
2) Preparing your heart and mind to proceed with humility
3) Confronting the situation in an appropriate way
Unfortunately, it’s really tempting to look at those steps, decide they’re not for us – and take the shortcut instead. Whether it’s avoiding the situation entirely (my specialty 😉), going outside the lines by sharing our frustrations and opinions with others (so we can ‘gather a team’ of supporters), or skipping straight to the confrontation step (bypassing the potentially painful self-examination and preparation) – we love the shortcuts!
Every time we have a disagreement or conflict, we stand on that porch with a choice. The easy way looks so appealing as we peer through the gate – while the longer way seems unreasonably hard (and potentially impossible). But I know that every time I bust (or sneak) through to take the shortcut, I find out exactly why it was blocked off in the first place – and I wish I had taken the other route.
The good news for Emmy is that she did finally give in. She took the hand of a very patient 8-year-old and made the long trek to the other side where she had a blast swinging on the bed with the big kids!
When we choose the shortcuts, we venture out on our own, but when we walk in obedience, we never go alone:
“For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
Are you standing at the gate today? The easy way may seem more satisfying in the moment, but God really does know what He’s talking about. He never promised His way would be easy, but He did promise He’d go with you – which means that even if things don’t work out in your favor, you’ve already got something much more satisfying than the shortcut could ever offer!