To me, this is the key to personal and universal healing, transformation, wholeness, and peace. This is where grace can take us if we let go of the prejudices, fears and idols of our ego.
“The dichotomies of imagination and rationalization, intuition and intellect, heart and mind, heaven and earth, feminine and masculine need to be viewed less as polarities than as partners in a delicate dance of balance and harmony. Only by embracing all parts of ourselves are we able to know the wholeness of the world and our inherent inseparability and interdependence with it.” Mini Farelly-Hansen
(Copied from the Blog: Make Believe Boutique)
I just want to reiterate my theme song: We are all born different.
I don’t have expertise in much, but personality differences have been my area of specialization since the early 1980’s. I used to be a consultant on their implications for marriage relationships, teaching/learning styles, approaches to spirituality and even management skills.
We are different in both what and how we take in information from the outer world
We are different in how we process what we take in.
We are different in what we value.
So, we are different in how we respond to what we take in.
We are incredibly different in how we communicate.
We are different in how we live in the world……whether goal driven, pleasure driven, influenced by others or our own built in agendas.
We are different in whether we are focused on the present moment, the past or the future.
Words have different meanings and even a totally different impact for each of us.
It is an absolute miracle that any random group of us can agree or act in concert on anything, even in the same family, church, culture or country, never-the-less across cultures, religions, and nationalities.
However, both my studies and experience have shown me that after midlife we have a natural inclination to grow and develop more in the opposite strengths and orientations. So, age may have its perks and probably the greatest of these is a greater potential for peacemaking.
Here is a part of my personal journey that hopefully illustrates this possibility.
In my mid-forties I was accepted into a three year course of preparation for Lay Ministry.
A part of it was taking a battery of tests ranging from IQ to personality tests. Then we were given feedback on areas that might be problematic for ministry.
I was told that I had two areas with a potential for limiting my effectiveness in ministry.
#1. My IQ was high enough that I most likely always assume that I am right in any conflict of opinion. This is a weakness, because no matter how smart anyone is, no one, but God is right all the time. And….(here is the zinger) the most necessary quality for hearing God is humility.
#2. I was over sensitive and thus, easily offended.(My humorous, but pitiful first gut level response to this was, “If you know that, why would you hurt my feelings by telling me?”)
It has been a long and somewhat painful process of integrating these truths into my conscious responses to life.
Several years ago, I got into a conflict with my church’s Minister and the leadership of the church. This culminated with a woman Elder telling me that I was just an unhappy person who was never satisfied with anything. Frustrated, hurt and angry, I left organized religion for about two years. During this period I focused on trying to listen to God and my relationship with God became much closer and more fruitful. This culminated in the realization that I was, in fact by nature, both extremely idealistic and a perfectionist. These traits have a good side; I have been at times a change agent for the better. However, since no person or organization is perfect, they tend to make me critical of pretty much everyone and everything.
The realities and practical limits of an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, including myself, are like a pebble in my shoe. Coming to grips with the reality that in this life, we can only inch toward any ideal, never reach it, is as painful for the idealist as accepting the call to change is for the pragmatist. The ultimate challenge for all of us is becoming free to hear God in each situation. Sometimes God’s choice is a matter of timing, sometimes what seems good, may need to be let go to make way for something better as yet unseen, sometimes more time is needed for grace to change other hearts.
This is my prayer variation: “God, help me to change what you want me to change, to accept what you want me to accept, and to hear which you are calling me to do in each situation.”
Here are the challenges that I am still in the process of learning on how to hear God:
#1. I must let go of the assumption that my way of seeing an issue is the best or God’s way. It might actually be, but I cannot see the whole picture or the long term effects like God can, so I cannot make my opinions into idols.
#2. I must consider the realities or practical limits of the situation and be willing to inch toward or even let go of what I consider the ideal.
#3. I must let God heal the hurt behind the anger that any conflict carries with it, such as feeling unappreciated, rejected, like a failure, or somehow inadequate.
#4. I must trust that God is in every situation and can teach me and others what we need to bring about spiritual growth and good out of what seems so wrong.
#5. It may be necessary for us to take time and space to heal our wounds, but we need to avoid burning bridges. Sin isn’t feeling hurt or angry or even needing time away from a situation.
Sin is refusing to take the time to seek the grace and do the work needed to reconcile, however long that may take.
The last couple of weeks have been full of tests of faith. I always fail tests of faith. Luckily, God seems to grade on the curve and I am not alone in being in his “slow to get it” class.
At seventy-seven my husband is still working six, nine-hour days a week. But since he now spends quite a few minutes a day looking for his glasses, the phone book, and his computer passwords, it seems like an uphill battle against the law of diminishing returns.
Being self-employed has meant that our retirement is what our investments have managed to accumulate over a career that spanned a couple of serious recessions and raising five children. Unfortunately our timing for retiring hits before those investments have had time to recover from the most recent recession.
We finally decided that the only way he could at least cut back on his work days was if we sold our house and office and moved to an apartment with an extra bedroom as an office. Week before last we met with a realtor to set this in motion. However, after three days of going through fifty years of architectural drawings stored in the office basement, my husband’s allergies to dust and mold sent him to the hospital fighting for breath and too shaky to walk on his own. Eight days in hospitals on steroids and antibiotics, after having numerous tests, have finally brought him home breathing, but still weak and wobbly. I considered just covering him with a spread while he lies on the couch, and warning potential buyers to not sit there, but I finally took pity and postponed showing the house.
I confess that I too am exhausted from staying overnight at the hospital, overwhelmed by the challenges we are facing, and am very nervous about a biopsy I have scheduled for next Monday.
This morning I wearily crawled out of bed, got some coffee, and went on-line to one of my favorite blogs, Unshakeable Hope.
This blog is written by a husband and father with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has had this for over seventeen years, since his children were young. He is now paralyzed and only able to write on the computer with his eyes.
His blog is honest and real, not at all pollyanna like, but his faith always overcomes his doubts and fears. Today’s post was Prioritizing Our Hopes and spoke perfectly to my situation. What a blessing. I was both humbled and strengthened.
Another blog that has touched and changed my life is everyday gurus which was the launching pad for B4Peace, a blogging group writing about peace. This challenged me to start with myself and has brought about significant forgiveness and reconciliation in some important broken relationships.
Another is Yogaleigh’s Not Just Sassy on the Inside, which has added a call to other bloggers to pray or chant for peace each Sunday evening, including praying for specific people that we find unloveable. See her post Collective Prayer Sundays. Attempting to be faithful in this has continued my process of healing and reconciliation that started with B4Peace.
This in turn has motivated me to support and participate in a Scripture based class in conflict resolution using the book Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson.
And this book has introduced me to Peacemaker Ministries and their resources that are available through http://www.Peacemaker.net
Another blog, Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane has given me awesome insights and deep hope for one of my grandchildren who suffers from Autism.
There are many other blogs, such as Make Believe Boutique that have touched, challenged, and taught me in amazingly diverse areas and ways over the last fourteen months. Blogging continues to enrich, inform, bless, and even transform my life at seventy-six.
Blogging is like reading favorite books exactly when you most need them and being able to talk with the author at the same time.
I wrote recently about our women’s group starting a new class on conflict resolution. I’m very excited about this opportunity, but I do realize what a challenge this will be. So, I’m praying for our group and our facilitators, and ask my fellow B4Peace bloggers to pray also.
The book we are using to begin is Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson.
I have only read the introduction so far, but it has captured my imagination and revived some of my long lost hope about peacemaking.
Ken Sande says that since he became a full-time Christian conciliator in 1982 he has seen these peacemaking principles used to stop divorces, restore friendships, reunite churches, settle lawsuits, and even bring peace between warring tribes in Africa and Asia.
I’m looking forward to seeing what can bring about those kinds of reconciliations and peace.
He also says to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries’ resources, training, or services visit http://www.Peacemaker.net.
I feel like I am standing at a door to a whole new way of life, perhaps even a deeper sense of purpose.
Don’t you love those moments in life?
My discovering the wonders of blogging last year at seventy-five is continuing to open new worlds to explore at seventy-six.
Thank yous to: our nephew David who gave me my first computer seventeen years ago, our son Thomas who is our computer tech, Tracy who introduced me to blogging last year, and the bloggers around the world that keep me inspired, particularly Kozo and the group, B4Peace.
They have all taught me that it’s never too late to learn new, exciting, and life changing things.
A women’s group at my church, known as The Doves, is having a Scripture based class on Conflict Resolution. Several people have stopped coming to our church because someone hurt their feelings, sometimes even just because someone seemed to ignore them. But when I invited them to the class, they said they didn’t have any conflicts to resolve.
In the past avoidance was one of my favorite ways of escaping conflict. I have shared before about getting my feelings hurt, then just cutting people out of my life, and even letting them die before ever resolving or reconciling. These people didn’t even know they had hurt me, because it was unintentional. With age I have gained a new perspective on many things, and I deeply regret abandoning these friends.
During the first gathering of the new class, a lot of unresolved hurt came out, even with each other in the class. But almost no one spoke in anger or in judgment. We simply admitted our feelings of hurt and listened when people explained a situation from another viewpoint or when someone pointed out the good in the offending person.
No one is perfect and we all bump into each other. Most times when we get seriously offended, it is because the other person has unwittingly blundered into an area where we feel particularly vulnerable.
Some people deal with the world mostly through logic and fact. And often are unaware of their own or others’ feelings. Since truth is their highest value, they do not automatically understand the effect it might have on another person’s feelings.
On the other hand, many of us simply see the world through our feeling values and respond to it straight from our feelings. Often, we have great difficulty working through them to logic.
For those whose values are truth, fact, and logic, even ordinary everyday conversations with feeling types are like exploring a minefield without a map.
Learning either how to say the truth tactfully, or when it might be more diplomatic to not say anything, is a serious challenge for them.
For those of us who live in our feelings, it helps to become aware of areas of insecurity and try to become free of them, and failing that, to learn to risk telling others how what they said made us feel. At least in a long term relationship, this will give the truth and logic partners a map of the minefield!
I have a friend who told me that when she was about six or seven, there was a rich little girl who came to their Sunday School in fancy clothes and white Mary Jane shoes. My friend was jealous of the little girl and took advantage of every chance she got, to scuff the bottom of her shoe across the pure white top of her Mary Jane shoes.
Sometimes, we really consciously mean to hurt others, but most of the time it is either inadvertent or an unconscious response.
I discovered late in life that I quite often scuff people’s Mary Janes in more subtle and less conscious ways, but it still leaves people feeling diminished. Most times before the last decade or so, I was not conscious of it, and sometimes the victims didn’t even know exactly what made them feel scuffed.
For conflict resolution to become an effective tool, it first takes commitment on everyone’s part and a willingness to become self-aware, even uncomfortably so.
Our group cares about each other and most of us have learned to love even the people we don’t always like. But still it’s a scary venture into our dark sides.
Prayer and knowing we are loved unconditionally, at least by God, will hopefully give us the grace to learn to use this tool for peace. All prayer for grace for us is greatly appreciated.