Monday, March 31, 2008

Relational Conflict

this post can also be found at
I was having a conversation today with some good, old friends. Because when you’re about to turn 40 that’s what you have… good, old friends. Much of the dialogue revolved around the difficulty of relationships between believers, even within the same church. Why are relationships hard? This is not even close to being exhaustive but here are the first four thoughts that come to my mind:

1. Because our identity is wrapped up in what others think. That’s a problem. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap.”

2. Because we assume that our spiritual experience(s) is the normal and even preferred path to truth, freedom, growth, etc… What I’ve found is that there is incredible diversity among believers regarding how they came to know what it is that they know. It’s one of the reasons I would guess that Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12 – “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Each person must work out their salvation. God works in unique ways with each of us. (It’s worth noting that this scripture gets taken out of context a lot. I can’t amplify here though. Do some research on it and see what you think)

3. Because relationships are so worthwhile and you can’t have the ‘worthwhileness’ without the ‘difficutlness’. (Yes, I like to make up my own words.) It’s like trying to raise children without experiencing any pain. It’s not possible. If you love your children you will experience pain on some level.

4. Because we each have our own set of filters, perspectives, opinions, baggage, dysfunction, sin, learned helplessness, blaming tendencies, bad habits, unrealistic expectations, etc… that make it almost impossible for good relationships to ever happen in the first place!

Regardless of reasons why, one thing I am sure of is that God uses relational conflict to build character in our lives or as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, “God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions.” Sometimes there are no resolutions. Sometimes the pain never really goes away. But it’s in these ‘ruins’ that Gods help is most powerful and re-creative.


Karmen Lewis said...

HI Jonathan!

I bet you would never have expected to hear from the likes of me, huh? I really hope it's OK that I'm visiting and that I haven't overstepped any boundaries by discovering your blog.

I recently heard you weren't pastoring anymore. Doug just finished the AZ Ironman and Bill and Pam Martin told us about you guys leaving. They didn't tell us why...I don't think they know, but we were surprised.

When you were at Journey Church we would check you blog from time to time and since you weren't there anymore I googled you. You can run, but cyberspace would let you hide too long! Ha!

I'm guessing you've probably heard by now that we've left the Nazarene church and have officially 'freaked-out." This post in particular hit pretty close to home, because we've hurt some friends because of long overdue changes we've decided to make. I think you know them....the friends. We truly have agonized over it ALL. It has really sucked. That said, I can't even begin to tell you what we have learned about ourselves, relationships with others, and most importantly how to seek after, desperately, in starvation mode, Jesus. I never would have thought that in that desperation it would separate us from the denomination we have both grown up in and longtime friendships.

We just couldn't do it anymore. We couldn't belong to the organization of self preservation any longer. Those are harsh words, I know. But we have heard for far too long that what our pastor and denomination say is TRUTH. Some of it is. Some of it, not so much. And to question anything, is like committing a cardinal sin. Or maybe that's all just in these mid-west churches? Ha!

I personally struggle with a little anger. Doug is doing a little better than I on that issue. But, as it pertains to your post, I have agonized over broken relationships and have tried to be clear, honest, and authentic about our intentions without waffling and going back to the same-old-same-old. I know if someone is on the other end of that it may not feel like the other person is being very Christlike, but that has been our desire and destination.

Thanks for letting me share. And again, hope it was OK to visit and comment.

Karmen Lewis

Karmen Lewis said...

One other thing...if you want, you should visit our church blog. It's Wheatland Mission in Wichita. It's a great blog and has lots of bloggers from church in the blogroll. The pastor is an awesome, missionally-minded guy.

Ps. Have you ever read anything by N.T. Wright?

freestyleroadtrip said...

Foster (I remember calling you that way back when), good to see you are doing well. I love what you are saying on your blog. The relationship stuff is right on. God has woken me up in 2007 and 2008 to a whole lot of things, and some of that has sent me in a completely different direction from where I was. Unfortunately, that relationship difficulty of which you speak has been mixed up in that. I find I have changed so drastically that some of the relationships I have had, even some long term ones, are no longer on anywhere near the same ground. The adventure and path that God has taken me on has changed me so much that some relationships almost cracked under the pressure. With that much change in one side of a relationship, that relationship cannot stay the same. It is changed too. Sometimes it takes the other side a while to catch up to similar ground where good things can again be happening. I agree that God uses these difficulties to build character. So I must have wonderful character by now. Keep up the blogging. I will be following.


Jonathan Foster said...

yeah, i've often wondered how much more character i really need! hey, thanks for the comments and karmen thanks for your thoughts as well. relationships are tough. you gotta keep moving forward, not livin in the past. when the sun is setting on one dream it's rising on another.