I recently read an article that broke my heart. It was on HuffPost, so there’s that. But it was about the best reasons to get a divorce. It was one of those things that I knew better than to read but I did it any way and then suffered the mind and heart crush that I knew I would. The overarching theme of the author was that if you and your spouse are fighting too much, it’s bad for the kids and it’s better for them to have to live with two separate homes than to deal with the constant fighting. This isn’t new. We’ve heard that logic before. I’m not going to great lengths to refute everything in the article, at least not right now, but the bottom line, for me, is this – if you are CONSTANTLY fighting, you never learned HOW to fight. If you are CONSTANTLY fighting, you give up your right to be called an adult and have probably stopped treating your spouse like one.
In this society, we do NOT know how to fight. We don’t. Conflict management is worse than ever. We are a society filled with narcissists who have been told for decades now that the most important thing is your personal happiness and security. We were told the world is your oyster and you deserve all good things. We’ve been told that no one is going to fight for you so fight for yourself and your rights. We’ve been given the message, mostly indirectly but sometimes not, that humility isn’t a virtue; it’s a crutch. It’s a liability to be humble and to compromise. It’s a sign of weakness and you are lame and need to go to therapy so you can regain your sense of worth and return to your true (entitled) self.
A message that tells us that all of that is dead wrong sounds lame and self-deprecating. But it’s not. I don’t have self-worth issues. I know where my worth comes from. I know that it isn’t what I bring to the table or all the things I do for people or how great I am. Humility is saying that I am not perfect, I don’t always know the right way, and even when I do know, I will fail. I know I will have those days when I won’t feel like doing anything for my husband, or days when he will say exactly all the wrong things at the wrong time, or when I will push his buttons just the way that makes him angriest. And here’s the thing – don’t miss this part – those are the times when the true test of our worth is exposed. It isn’t in the times when we are cheerfully serving each other, though of course that’s great. But our value, honor, and character are more clearly revealed when we are pressed and prodded and generally pissed. How we fight and how we engage in conflict says so much more about us than all other things combined.
The problem with too many adults is that they never grew up. They never matured in the way they fight. They never learned how to stay calm and rational and take the fight down a saner road, one that gets to the heart of the issues and seeks resolution and peace, not just a winner and a loser. We degenerate into 10 year olds who can’t decide how to play a game and everyone refuses to budge or even attempt to see other people’s points of view. We start hurling personal insults and attacking the things that are most precious to the other person. Or we bring up old grudges that we may have said we forgave or have tried to ignore, like those grudges are ammunition in the heat of battle. War is a battle of armies and resources. And we pile up our support systems and our ammunition and guns so that we can take others down by any means necessary.
Who are we??? What brought us to this? As a nation filled with individuals so stuck on our sense of entitlement. It’s a mix of fear – being afraid of being doormats or not getting what we think we deserve – and arrogance, thinking that we have to prove how much better we are and how our particular opinions and ways of thinking are right and superior. I have to win this fight because… why? Why do you have to win? What does it look like to win? And what are you willing to destroy in order to win?
Oh that we would fight well. Oh that we would die to ourselves. That we would pick up the mess and destroy the true enemies of peace. The enemy is NOT the person you fight with. The enemy is NOT your spouse. It is NOT your kid. It is NOT your boss, your employee, your in-laws, your ex-spouse, your neighbor. The real enemy is SIN and its reign in our lives, in our decision making, in our knee jerk reactions and narcissistic raging. The enemy is all those thoughts that distort truth. The enemy is all the hatefulness and anger. The enemy is the stirring up of your self-centeredness and greed. The enemy is when you sacrifice other people and the relationships you have just to be right or to “win” or to get the outcome you feel entitled to.
In this Holy Week, Jesus said, THIS is how *I* fight. This week was my fight – the week I took it all down. This is what I did. I understood you. I knew you from before time was time. I planned you. And I took your greatest need and I met it. I took the one problem you actually have, at the root of it all – your sin – and I massacred it. I beat it to a bloody pulp. I smashed it to bits. And I destroyed it in the fires of hell, removing it from you for the rest of eternity. This is how I fight. This is how I resolve conflict. I take it upon myself to remove the one real obstacle in your way to true, lasting peace. I bore that burden, carried that cross, at great pains to myself, and I dealt with the ugly wretchedness of sin and its destruction once and for all. This is how I fight. Fight with me, not against me.
The only One entitled and worthy of all glory, power, honor, praise, and authority laid all of His worth down so that you and I can live in peace. We trade in all of His worth and glory when we fight each other. We suffocate His love and grace when we rage against each other. We are taking a hammer and nailing Him again to the tree when we go for each other’s jugulars and try to make people “pay” for whatever it is we think they owe us. We war within ourselves, vying for position, status, power, vindication, affirmation, whatever it is that we think will bolster us and give us security we desperately long for. But Jesus said, Peter, put down your sword. Stop fighting for the kingdom you are trying to build with your own two hands. That isn’t my kingdom. That isn’t my plan. Fight for MY kingdom. Fight for MY will. Fight for MY peace on earth, that all may see a better way to live, that all may see that you are first to lay down your sword, the first to lay down your life, so that all may see the glory, power, and majesty of a gracious God who destroyed sin’s curse and invites you home.