Monday, October 28, 2013

Breaking Bees

My son Cannon is terrified of bees.

The instant he hears the buzzing noise of an incoming insect, he runs for cover. While humorous at times, it's also frustrating from the perspective as a father when you see your son driven by fear of the unknown rather than the certainty of what is. No amount of rational, logical thinking can help Cannon process the reality that he is larger than a bee and the bee might just be more afraid of him than he is of it.

I was thinking more about bees during one family walk and yet another instant where I witnessed Cannon jumping out-of-the-way of another insect for fear it might harm him. What do bees and Christians have in common? Here are a couple of thoughts that came to mind.

1. We travel in packs. Bees live in colonies: extended family communal type settings. There are times when different bees are sent out of the hive to scout out new territory, but for the most part, bees prefer to stick together with their own kind.

This is somewhat of a sad realization of most Christians. We love to associate with those who are like us. While this mentality isn't altogether bad, it definitely limits our ability to grow and develop or even influence the world around us. The challenge we face is allowing ourselves to be culture-shapers instead of consumers or bystanders. We take a risk when we put ourselves out there to interact with those who may not share our thoughts and views on life, that's true, but we miss out on the beauty that is to be found in every human being when we only choose to associate with those who are exactly like us.

2. We protect the hive. There is an instinctive nature to bees. The hive is their home; their place of safety; their place of identity. They will offer their lives in service to their queen in order to protect their hive.

The challenge we Christians face is not allowing our denominations, buildings or programs become our hives. If you've ever studied the history of Christianity, you will know that many lives have been lost due to a difference in theology, doctrine and even methodology. Each of us falls victim to the same basic human tendency to immerse our identity in what we do instead of who we are (our doing vs. our being). In our attempt to protect the hive, we unintentionally give our lives for something that may not actually mean what we believe it does. Perhaps we need to re-cultivate the habit and posture of humility instead of pride when it pertains to matters of the hive.

What are other similarities that may exist between bees and Christians?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Conflict, Friendship & Feet

I suffer from the proverbial foot it mouth disease. I cannot recount how many times I have intentionally or unintentionally caused conflict based on what I did or didn't say to someone. It is because of this habit of eating my own feet that I have gained a lot of experience with regards to the benefits of working through relational tension.

This is a fact: Every human relationship will experience conflict, strain and stress over time. How we choose to handle these moments of conflict will determine whether or not a connection is strengthened or severed. Here are two ideas on how you can grow through relational tension.

1. Humility. There is nothing quite like a reminder that you're not perfect to help foster humility in one's character. Learning to apologize, accept responsibility for your actions, and the consequences associated with disappointment and pain provide the best catalyst for character growth and development. It's in times of tension where your true character is revealed. Attempting to deflect or mask responsibility in conflict does nothing but harm any sort of future relational bond that may be built. Relationships that stand the test of time are built on honesty, respect, forgiveness and unconditional love. 

The next time you find yourself dealing with relational tensions ask yourself this question: "What do I need to learn from this situation?" instead of giving into the temptation to distance yourself from this learning opportunity.

2. Fox-hole syndrome. My first role in ministry was in a church that faced a lot of different kinds of conflict. Learning to navigate through the seasons of great tension, strain and hurt helped me to understand that conflict can act as a communal catalyst for strengthening relational bonds. 

One of my favorite mini-series is Band of Brothers. The 10 part series tells the story of a division of soldiers as they walk through the Second World War. As the television series continues to unfold, we discover that the bond between these men is enhanced by shared conflict.

There are times when we may be invited to dig a figurative foxhole alongside of others in opposition to conflict. Instead of viewing these seasons of strain as hindrances to future development, discover the richness of the opportunity to create relational growth that conflict can bring. It's true that unresolved conflict does severe a relational connection, but when you are mature enough to fight through the conflict, the relationship you long for will grow.

The next time you find yourself suffering from indigestion due to your attempts of eating your own feet, remember that relational conflict is unavoidable and it may just be an invitation to deepen the connection that you have with another person.