If you’re like me, you might like to run away, cover up, ignore, or fret over your mistakes and conflicts with others. Let’s take a look at both of these categories: mistakes and conflicts. We will look at our typical responses to them, possibilities for different ways of responding, and what God might be doing in the midst of them!
First, mistakes. No one loves to own up to their mistakes. It’s embarrassing. We scold ourselves saying, “We should have known better.” Or, “We should have paid closer attention to what we were doing.” Or, my favorite and most common, “Why did I say that?” Then, we do whatever we can to make sure that no one else finds out about the mistake. We hide, just like Adam and Eve in the garden. What are we so afraid of? That someone will find out that we are not perfect? Guess what, the secret is already out! Or, perhaps we fear that people will think we are incompetent.
Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, God comes seeking us in the midst of our mistakes. He comes offering us an opportunity to own up to what we have done and not be bound by the fear to make us hide. He desires to make something beautiful out of our messes. But, the decision lies with us. Will we continue to hide with our mistakes, bound by fear? Or, will we come out of hiding, own up to our mistakes and watch God do something amazing with them? In his book, “Difference Makers,” Scott Boren says, “God is working through the messes we create along the way to reveal His love.”
When we come out of hiding and own up to our shortfalls, amazing things can happen. Often times, trust is won with the people around us, and with our leadership, because of our honesty and determination to do it right. God also now has room to give you guidance and direction to fix the issue, or do it better next time. We also start to learn that God’s love and acceptance is not conditioned upon us “getting it right” all the time. We only learn and grow from our mistakes if we are willing to acknowledge them and examine them with the help of Holy Spirit. If we are too busy hiding from our mistakes, acting like they never happened, learning and growth are nearly impossible.
And then, conflicts. It has been said that the only impossible thing about ministry is the people. We’ve all heard that the number one reason that missionaries leave the field is due to conflicts with people. And yet, the Scriptures tell us, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NASB) Some people would prefer to work alone in order to avoid conflicts with others, or to avoid having to make compromises in order to work with a team. However, we have the greatest impact when we work together! Jesus invites us into a family, into one body and into unity, not a group of fully self-sustained individuals. Why? Because we learn best from each other. And, that learning happens when we disagree.
Again in, “Difference Makers,” Scott Boren says, “…when we encounter differences, we work through them, find God together, and see what God is doing in the midst of them. The way we handle our conflicts may be the way we show our neighbors what God’s love looks like.”
There are no perfect churches, no perfect small groups and no perfect teams. There will always be someone you don’t agree with or don’t get along with easily. And, God is not waiting for you to find “perfect” people to work with before He makes a difference in the world! He is working through imperfect people, and through conflicts, to accomplish His goals in the earth. He always has.
So, rather than avoiding our mistakes, let’s own them. Rather than avoiding conflicts, embrace each other in the midst of conflict and watch God do something amazing. Let’s choose not to hide from our mistakes, or from each other in fear, but rather, face them and see what beautiful thing God will do with them. Let’s forget about trying to find the “perfect” group or situation before we go out and get busy building the Kingdom. But rather, watch God take our broken attempts to partner with Him (and each other) and make it something grand!