I've had the honor of doing a 40 days of prayer guide through my church. It never ceases to amaze me at God's timing! Every day I open this little booklet, its exactly what I needed to hear that specific day!
After being down in the Florida Keys for a few months, I've had some time to reflect on my life the last ten years. I have definitely made some choices that have affected my life in trememdous ways. One of those choices, is how I handle conflict. To be quite honest, I'm not really good at it. Actually, I can get pretty defensive when I am being attacked and one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is to be accused of something I have not done. Not to be prideful, but I do usually tell on myself before being busted (just ask my mom).
So, I've thought a lot about the conflict in my life and relationships lost because of that conflict. Its been hard lessons to learn but ones that I feel make me who I am today. It gives me great teaching material for my girls during homeschool. Not sure if that is what God was doing in some of those conflict situations but He has taught me to teach my girls about dealing with it.
I opened my 40 days of prayer last week, only to find the title "Living in Conflict" at the top of the page. "Of course," I said out loud to God. What better topic of discussion than the one thing I struggle with the most. Then, today I open it to "Resisting Opposition," and the first line reads "We pray 'Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...' but often we experience conflict that stems from people's opposition to God. It occurs in several arenas. Many Christians have found conflict in places that they considered to be the most secure: at church, home, even family or friendships..places they believe to be outside the battle zone. Not so!" I sat there for a minute soaking up that statement. It then occured to me that maybe I had viewed conflict wrong all along. I viewed it as an attack on me, personally, rather than an attack in the unseen world. "It is the unseen world where our real enemy lies. He will try to damage wherever he can." So, that's it! I was giving way too much credit to those around me that were attacking me and my family. We recently had a situation that I will not go into detail. But, we were attacked by people we claimed to be friends and brothers/sisters in Christ. We weren't sure where the attacks were coming from and we were quite frankly completely blindsided. We (Craig and I) became very defensive and to be quite honest, a spirit of bitterness welled up inside of me. I felt like when we left our home of 10+ years, things were left unsettled and a lot of questions unanswered. It brought me back to another time in my life, where I lost a very dear friend of mine to a series of arguments, arrogant attitudes and deadly defensiveness. The hurt began to grow again inside of me and the best thing I thought could happen was to escape my life in the one place I felt such opposition.
For whatever reason, God did choose to move us away from Texas and away from close friends and also those that were no longer friends. It grieved me to leave the home I had known for so long and the friends that I held so dear to my heart. It also saddened me of the things that were left undone and the reconciliation that had yet to take place. But, at times, I wonder if in God's perfect timing, He did remove us so that I could see and learn from what we had been through as a family.
While reading my devotion, I came to realize that as long as we harbor bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment in our hearts, we allow the enemy to come in and steal, kill and destroy. When we choose to allow the opposition of others to dictate our lives and then, in turn, become defensive and hateful - guess who wins? Yep, the enemy. We are falling into his perfect trap of deception and its a downward spiral from that point. Its scary to say the least!
You know, my brother, Michael is a great example of a duck. When he is attacked as an individual, he really lets things roll off his back. We recently had a great discussion about this very thing. We were part of a situation that involved the two of us. I made a couple of comments and then later had to apologize. His response, "I was over it a long time ago." And, rest assured, he was! I wish I could be more like my brother.
So, what have I learned this week:
The greatest arena of spiritual warfare occurs in our heads.
A stronghold is an attitude or mindset impregnated with despair that accepts as unchangeable anything that is contrary to the will of God.
Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Forgive your enemies - it messes with their heads (that's just a funny church sign I saw before I left Texas)
Am I a tool in the hands of the enemy? By accusing falsely, by spreading gossip, by bringing damage to others' lives?
My prayer is that God would change my mindset. I pray that I won't view conflict as a personal attack on me but rather its a battle that rages around me in the spiritual realm. When someone opposes me or persecutes me, how will I handle the conflict?
As I type this, the radio program is on "forgiveness." Hmmm, how fitting :-)