Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What is God teaching me in this?

About a month ago I received some "hate mail."  Well...I'm not sure you can actually call it that if it doesn't come in the mail - but who sends letters anymore (I LOVE letters by the way)?  But you get the idea...

It all started with a blog.

I blog for many reasons.  I'm actually excited that people actually read them!  My motive started when Mike and I were support raising to first come on to the field almost 11 years ago.  I wanted to guest blog on his blog and he said - "Why don't you start your own?"  Oh!  Now there's a thought.  It really was a way for me to chronicle my own journey.  Some times things happen that just need to be put down on "paper."  Emotional events that need to be spoken.  I've talked about sad things, happy things, crazy things, interesting things, and mundane things.  I like talking about what's going on in our lives.  I talk about what's happening in my ministry.  I talk about things that go on in my family.  I talk about things that are important to me, that I want to share with others.  I am not one to write something that is going to stir the pot.  I don't write political blogs, controversial topics, or anything to incite anyone.  I write them for my edification, God's glory, and to let folks know ways to pray for us and the ministry and to see how God is working.

That's what I thought this blog was...just talking about "stuff" really, nothing important.  Then I got some hate mail...about my blog...

I was stunned.  This came from a person who has known me for a long time, who knows my character, who knows ME.  It was unkind,  and I sat in shock reading the words that were coming my way.  I was called unkind, a slanderer, and that I attacked with my blog.  In the end, that other person ended our friendship - that was it - the end - final words from this person were, "goodbye."

So I sat on that message...re-reading it...for a long time.  Why did I get this message now?  I haven't seen this person in a fair amount of time, I was in Africa, and yet they still felt the need to reach out with this message.  So I looked for God in this...I looked to see what He wanted me to learn, to see how this would be used for His glory.  And then it occurred to me.

Guess what?!  I'm a sinner.  You are a sinner.  We are all sinners.  We work with sinners, we live with sinners.  We are going to sin, and be sinned against.  That's the reality of the Fallen world.  I get that - but this was up close and personal, and I had to look beyond the hateful words for what God wanted me to learn.  I prayed, I studied, I asked for wisdom from my pastor, from my former boss, a dear Christian counselor, and knew what I needed to do with this situation.  And so, I did what I do...I wrote...and wrote...and wrote...and now there will be an addition to my book - and that's all I'll say :-)  Guess you will just have to read it.

People say they hate conflict.  But the reality is - conflict is a way of life.  There is conflict in your family - between spouses, between parents and their children, between adults and other adults, between friends.  It can be a GOOD thing if handled well.  It can be a bad thing if handled poorly.  If you have known me long enough, you know that conflict is not something I pursue - but I'm not afraid to confront it when it comes my way.  The bible is riddled with conflict...and God's directions in how to deal with it.

I'm not sure when conflict became a dirty word?  If anything, in this last year we have seen what conflict has done to people's friendships.  On Facebook - I have seen people unfriend others because of their views on one political party over another.  I have seen people unfriend others because their views on which bathroom to use is different than what your neighbor thinks.  Because guess what...people are going to disagree with you (not possible), won't like you (GASP!?), and even have different opinions (say it isn't so?!).  Voice your opinion - that's the beauty of the world we live in.  By stating your view, and that it in fact may be different, is not being hateful!  I'm not sure when my personal opinion became politically incorrect?  When did my views become hateful because they didn't agree with your views? No one has been convinced to change their opinion about something fundamentally important to them by a Facebook post.  Seriously, people.  Don't give yourself that much credit.

How you choose to respond to this conflict is where things clash.  New denominations have been born because of conflict, directions of churches have changed because of conflict..it's not about the conflict...it's how we as Christians choose to deal with it, how we choose to respond.  We say, "can't we all just get along?!"  The reality is, no - we can't all just get along.  AND THAT's OKAY!  Strive for it?  Absolutely.  Pray to be that way...of course...desire it be one of your characteristics?  Definitely.  However, I am not going to be everyone's best friend...sorry...that title is preciously reserved for a select few.  Humans are passionate people - and I love how colorful our world is - if we all thought the same, did the same thing, were robots in this world, where would the beauty of God's creation be seen in the humans that He created?  It's why our mission agency focuses on the Myers-Briggs so much - understanding how people are so very different can help you work better with them.  I am a type-A, huge planner, meticulous, and focused.  I totally realize that I am going to work with people who are so NOT like me...and I love that...it makes us better...too many of the same type of people can lead to a stagnant ministry.  But understanding that we are all different, find different priorities, think differently is also hugely important.

We can choose to be kind to each other in the midst of not getting along.  We can choose to hold our tongue and not lash out during conflict.  Is it a fight worth fighting for or can it just be overlooked?  Will you want to pull back the words that spewed from your lips, or will you go to bed knowing that you did the best you could do?  

So, how will you, as a believer, confront conflict when it occurs?  Will you flee from it?  Will you confront it?  Will you attack over it?  Will you look for reconciliation, or be forced to shake the dust from your feet?  We don't always do things the right way, but looking at the heart, and for the motive is so important when addressing conflict...be kind...be filled with Grace...love one another in the midst of understanding that we are not all going to always get along...that's not only reality, but truth, and if you think otherwise, then perhaps you've not been in enough conflict.

9 comments:

Farmgirl said...

I tend to stay away from that I have conflicts with. It may be the cowards way out but I don't like the way I react in those situations. My daughter and I both have just recently been "unfriended" by someone very close to us and neither of us have a clue why. I feel like if they care that little about us then I don't need them in my life anyway. I hate that you have lost a friend also but they could not have been a true friend or they wouldn't treat you like that. God Bless you for all you do. Jennifer B

Erin Pettengill said...

Jennifer - it's not the cowards way out - it's just knowing when it's worth fighting for, and learning within that. I'm not a huge fan of how I react sometimes as well, but trying is part of the process, and that means not always getting it right. I just don't get why people can have a difference of opinion and that not be okay? We can still love each other and care for each other. Thanks for the sweet words!

Grandma Barb said...

I know you know this but just a reminder. Your friend is not the enemy. He/she is being influenced by your common enemy. This friend has fallen into a trap of negativity and needs a hand of prayer extended to him/her. Dear Father, only you know what has motivated this person to believe lies and how many people have been hurt by her lies. Satan's negative thoughts and accusations are like a crowbar he used to drive a wedge between us and others. We both become his victims. Please send your love and light to this person. Open his/her eyes and turn him/her from darkness to light and from Satan's power unto yours that He/she may receive an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in you. (Acts 26:18)

Erin Pettengill said...

Barb - that was beautifully stated! And beautiful reminder!

timetoshare said...

How beautiful and true. Thank you and Erin, thank you as well, for sharing! God's perfect timing for me. Love to you!

Carla Young said...

Thank you for keeping it real. I'm better from having read this.

Carla Young said...

AMEN.

Carla Young said...

I had this very thing to happen to me with a relative. Thank you for sharing this. Conflict is a part of life but I certainly want to be able to respond in a Godly way. The issue has not been resolved even after I attempted to communicate with her but I have peace about it and I pray for her the very prayer that Barb said earlier.

Carla Young said...

I had this very thing to happen to me with a relative. Thank you for sharing this. Conflict is a part of life but I certainly want to be able to respond in a Godly way. The issue has not been resolved even after I attempted to communicate with her but I have peace about it and I pray for her the very prayer that Barb said earlier.