I mentioned before that I am taking "Church Conflict: From Contention to Collaboration" for J-term. I maintain that it is an interesting class, and one that I trust will be deeply valuable for the ministry of all who are taking it.
For this class, we were asked to think up an image or idea on the first day that explains how we think of conflict. Everyone shared their idea, and they were great. I would like to share my "image" of conflict:
Conflict seems like a football game in January. There are people around who are screaming, people who are just sitting there watching, and people who have laryngitis and can't speak at all. But, even the person with laryngitis leaves a mark because their breath can be seen in the cold air. Additionally, some people are there because they LOVE football, and some people are there because they love someone who is playing. There are also coaches, referees, cheerleaders, hecklers, and everyone else. That is one image in my mind of what conflict is like.
Some of the other images were likened to elastic that stretches out, a fire that consumes, groups with a pile of weapons and ammunition, and a circle, to name a few. They were all very interesting. Even the ones I do not necessarily "get" are interesting because it helps me see more how the person thinks. I enjoyed sharing that time.
At the end of the first day, we were given an "assignment," and that was to go home and think about an image or idea for "collaboration." When class met back the next day, we went around the room again and we all "spoke ourselves present" by sharing our image. Again, I was incredibly interested to hear these ideas that ranged from a team working together, to the weapon piles being turned from being pointed at people to being turned at an issue that needed addressing. I would also like to share my "image" of collaboration:
Collaboration is like a smile. There are many things needed to smile. A person needs to be able to feel an emotional response like joy, happiness, contentment, etc in order to feel like smiling. There are people in the world too depressed to smile. Also, there needs to be the cognitive capacity to smile. There are people in the world with dementia or brain injuries who no longer know how to smile, or who have brains who don't register emotions. Their brains and muscles are not collaborating to bring a smile to their faces. And there are people who have had certain types of stroke who cannot smile because their brains won't tell their muscles what to do. Smiling takes a lot of collaboration. And, a smile is often contagious. Smile at someone else and see them smile back. Similarly, when we go forth ready, willing, and able to collaborate, others are likely to respond in like fashion.
We have also shared our personal histories with conflict. These stories are often touching, and most certainly deserving of respect. People come from different places regarding conflict. Many of these places are still hurting and are scarred over. But, scar tissue is a part of the learning process. It often protects us from new wounds in the same place. Christ has his own scar tissue in his hands stretched out to embrace all of humanity. These places of past pain remind us that Christ is with us, even in the pain, messiness, and grief of everyday life. Scars help us remember that we too, can work to embrace others.