The Hard but Glorious in Conflict

ALICE KIM|CONTRIBUTOR Navigating conflict often feels like stuffing a bedsheet set back into its original packaging. If you manage to return the contents, you realize it’s not the same. The once smooth and compact surface and sharp corners are now bulging with lumps and oddly shaped edges. Though we sincerely believe the gospel makes a difference between two people who love Jesus and are actively walking toward understanding and forgiveness, it seems that reconciliation and restoration are unfortunately, the exception rather than the norm. Messy Relationships We feel the weight of how messy and complicated relationships in families, marriages, friendships, coworkers, and neighbors are as we live intertwined lives. Our differing personalities, backgrounds, desires, biases, and emotional triggers are potential sources of conflict. Furthermore, the less we know about the other person, the more inaccurate assumptions fill the gaps of understanding and in turn, taint the relationship. Even with the best intentions, we are still insensitive. I know this is true of myself. We treat objects or goals more important than people. We burden others with expectations and are convinced our way is better. Sadly, the effects of living in a fallen and broken world become inescapable...

The Hard but Glorious in Conflict2022-07-20T15:52:04+00:00

Living Congruently With Who God Says We Are

AMY JUNG|GUEST It has been a few months since the bitter, cold day that our sweet rabbit, Cocoa, gave birth to her four babies. I remember it clearly, though, because it had an impact on my life. Since my daughter began keeping rabbits, I’ve been amazed at how rabbit mothers begin frantically pulling their own hair to line the nest for their babies. The first time our Cocoa had babies, she hadn’t done a thing the night before. By morning, there was a beautiful surprise: a soft blanket of fur covering all the babies keeping them warm. After birthing and cleaning, she had pulled her own hair to make a covering so they would live. It was a picture to me of the selflessness mothers and caregivers are capable of. Imagine our surprise when, instead of finding a beautiful fur blanket covering them during a recent birth, we found that our Cocoa had given each of her kits mortal wounds that killed them all! Cocoa was not being the sweet mother we had known her to be. Another life lesson on the farm for my daughter, Ruthie, and for me. Just as Cocoa once gave us a beautiful picture of motherhood and care, this time she gave us a scary picture instead. Sadly, Cocoa felt threatened. At the advice of our vet, we had brought her in from the sub-zero temperatures in hopes that her babies would have a better chance at survival. Our plan backfired, as she was keenly aware of other animals in our house. She felt so threatened, that she believed she needed to get rid of the evidence of babies to keep predators from attacking her. There was no way for us to communicate to her that she was safe and alone in a room where our dog and cats would not harm her. She didn’t know the truth about all that we’d done to protect her and her babies from the bitter cold. She smelled and heard the other animals and was operating out of instincts, unable to see the truth that we so desperately wanted her to know. What a significant illustration this has been for me to ponder! I think that humans, mothers even, do similar things. In our emotions like fear, frustration, and hurt, we can turn on those we love. We may even give them mortal wounds. While these wounds don’t physically kill, they do fail to give life. As Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (18:21). We wield our tongues powerfully for either life or death. Like Cocoa, I’ve sacrificed time, energy, and my own desires for those I love. Sometimes, though, when strong emotions surge, I inflict wounds that fail to give life, leaving scarring wounds to the heart and soul of another. Do your loved ones sometimes see another side of you other than the sweet mother, sister, or friend they most often know you to be?...

Living Congruently With Who God Says We Are2022-05-04T23:15:57+00:00

Moving Towards People with Autism in Faithful Friendship

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR Have you ever had a friendship that started out, at first, on the worst possible footing—and yet, somehow—it grew anyway? I have an autistic friend who can testify that is exactly how our relationship lurched forward. When we first met, while I was leading a national disability ministry, my “wheelhouse” was primarily in the area of intellectual disability. At that time, I did not have any close personal connections with adults who have “high functioning autism” (a misnomer in and of itself). Lori was the first woman I had ever encountered who carried this descriptor. We met in 2013 at our denomination’s annual General Assembly. While working the booth for our ministry, Lori circled by several times and then finally came up and talked to me for a bit. She mentioned that she had a son with autism. I’d had those conversations with lots of folks before. Then she said, “I have autism too.” Now she had my attention. Unhelpful Responses When “typical” folks meet people with disabilities, we can often fall into one of three categories of unhelpful responses: condescension, complacency, or consumerism. In my experience, the most common response is one of condescension—a revealing of our own biases of superiority towards people with differing abilities whom we presume to be inferior to us. It’s an ugly disclosure when it happens. And it happens frequently. Condescension says much more about us and our distorted views of ourselves than it says about people with disabilities. The second category is complacency. Complacency is indifferent to the difficulties associated with disability and deeply rooted in our postmodern cultural context. Complacency can mask as acceptance—but it refuses to acknowledge (or feel any responsibility toward) the ways that some degree of suffering always accompanies disability in how the body works differently than we expect it to. For people with autism, the differences in neurological functioning create very challenging sensory, communication, relational, and executive functioning hurdles. When we are complacent or indifferent toward those realities, we communicate to people with autism that we expect them to bear these challenges in silence. The third trap is a consumer mindset—one that sees the person with autism, in this case, as a commodity. Wow—you inspire me. Wow—you’re not what I expected. Wow—you could be really useful to me. I fell into this latter pitfall in my first encounter with Lori. Acknowledging that I did not know nearly as much about autism as I really needed to, I was thrilled to meet someone who was not only a parent of a child with autism but also autistic herself. What a gold mine! That’s when the unfiltered speech started on my part. “Will you be my (ministry’s) Temple Grandin?” Yes. I actually said that. I know. It’s mortifying for me even now, just to type it, let alone acknowledge that I blurted it out. (In case you don’t know who Temple Grandin is, she is a woman with autism who is a world-renowned speaker on the subject and also a brilliant, accomplished researcher in the topic area of animal husbandry.) What I Am Still Learning I thought it might be helpful to share a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning) along the way about becoming friends with someone who is autistic. I’ve asked Lori to interact with me on this post as well, so this post is only Part 1 of 2, as Lori’s voice in this conversation is, of course, crucial. In my experience, I think those of us who would describe our interactions with the world around us as “neurotypical” will benefit from recognizing that we subconsciously settle into several things in our friendships, without even being aware of them. “Easy” neurotypical friendships are often based on commonality, comfort, competence, and conformity. We find it easiest to relate to those with whom we share things in common, whose presence doesn’t require us to be uncomfortable in any way, where our knowledge of the world and how it works feels competent, and where there is some mutually agreed upon level of conformity. Christ-like relationships, on the other hand, are not focused on “ease” but on “intentionality.”...

Moving Towards People with Autism in Faithful Friendship2022-05-04T23:12:27+00:00

Jesus Mercifully Listens to Us

ELLEN DYKAS|CONTRIBUTOR And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42–43) She caught me. A close friend called me out when in the middle of a face-to-face conversation, I was distracted by a notification that popped up on the screen of my smartphone. In a second, I exited my real-time conversation with her and turned to my phone. Effectively, I turned away from my friend, closing my ears to her, and listened to the voice of my phone. Ugh. I’ve selfishly done this to people more often than I want to admit. I’ve also been the recipient of distracted listening and know how it feels. What?! I’m not as important as your device’s notifications? What’s so interesting out the window that you can’t stay focused on our conversation? Listening without distraction is a powerful way to love someone and we can learn so much from a scene we remember every Easter. Jesus’s brief conversation with the criminal on the cross elevates the power of loving listening. As he hung on the cross, bloodied and separated from God, Jesus showed mercy to a hurting sinner. He listened attentively to this man’s request, offered words that proved he was listening well, and gave a dying man the hope of eternal companionship with God...

Jesus Mercifully Listens to Us2022-05-04T23:13:38+00:00
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