The famous Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God” has a more literal translation, “Stop your fighting, and know that I am God”. The entire Psalm 46 is littered with what God does in our trouble. It is an ancient call for what is ours in God, peace. “God our refuge and strength… the ever-present help in trouble …God is with us… we will not fall… He makes wars cease….He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, the Lord Almighty is with us… He is our fortress”, all we are asked to do is “stop fighting”. But we just can’t, can we?
“Choose your battles”, is something I hear a lot of these days. In a world full of conflict and in a society that seems to always be brimming with tension, what choices do we have? By the looks of things, at minimum we are guarded, at best wounded left feeling backed in a corner. We live in the world of the teeter-totter. Ready to react because we don’t know how to respond. In some forms we celebrate the battle, in others we look for it, and for some we simply live in avoidance of it. But who is winning? What is winning? Perhaps, the war of words is not the answer. Its interesting that the easement of disagreement and argument seem to come quite natural to us and yet, they are not our nature. They are learned, practiced and entertained. Even more interesting is that we struggle to do what comes most natural to us, that which is most fundamentally our asset, to listen.
I am a father of two kids with one on the way and I am relearning this for myself. My children were born unable to speak but they knew how to listen and when they did speak they could only mourn. Both are good. And yet, with my kids, I am quick to yell and argue but in doing so I loose their ears. And even if I yell load enough and look at them authoritatively enough, I can get their attention but it comes at a cost. For what they learn is how to battle, not how to live. I may even get the outcome I desire but it does not come through their desire but my force. This is a loss not a victory. But the truth is, as it is with God, us fathers desire that our children will come to a place where they listen and make good decisions on their own. That they will, what we will intuitively. This is the beautiful union of John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” While our will and the will of our opponents might be quite different my hope here is for us to see that fighting is by nature enemy occupied territory. It is not our intended nature, so what are we to do about it? Here are three things that might take you off guard.
A few considerations for a shared journey for peace.
- Listening is Loving: Listening is the capacity to put aside our preoccupations in exchange for being present with the other. When we listen we build room to speak. In fact, I have found that when I hear a person out, they no longer want the last word but instead are now open to dialogue.
- Mourning is Understanding: Mourning allows us to feel. In mourning we cripple our tendency for judgment by acquainting ourselves with sorrow. We learn to rely on greater truths and in doing so are able to lie down our trivia in exchange for profound understanding. Morning disarms us from our fear that causes us to fight in the first place.
- Were In This Together: The best kind of love breaks down the “us verse them” mentality we live by. Love teaches us to see ourselves in those we don’t like to see. Some have suggested we dislike those most like us. Perhaps we really just dislike our selves. What if next time we find our self in dispute with someone we choose to look past the speck in the other person’s eye and instead pull the plank out of our own eye (Matthew 7:3)? In doing so, we might find the humility needed to listen and gain a friend.