How does it happen?

I look back over the last 40 years and I see brokenness taking many forms and impacting every life; from homes and families, friends and schools, churches and communities to governments near and far. I’ve learned to hate conflict that doesn’t end in peaceful resolve and restored relationships. I hate the hurt it causes, the wounds that seem to never heal; the discord that festers and spreads to infect entire families and groups that once loved or at least thought they did.

If we cared deeply enough, could we stop and take steps back from the fire long enough to consider the damage forward steps would hasten? Yes, if we cared enough.

Fire, when fed, can spread and devour everything in its path, but when properly managed soon after it sparks the hot flame can be extinguished leaving little if any lasting effects behind.

What determines action can always be traced to matters of both heart and mind. Pure hearts and sound minds anchored in truth and committed to peace are “swift to hear and slow to speak.” Wisdom so often cries, “wait.” Speaking and acting in moments of intense emotion most always results in wounds.

I well remember attending crisis intervention training and hearing the instruction to guide those recently upset into rational thinking by asking grounding questions that require focused thinking so that the stirring emotions can dissipate. This is helpful regardless of the “crisis” because feelings often cloud judgment and influence us to behave in ways that we normally would not. A crucial lesson to learn in life is to walk thoughtfully and with great care among others. Reminding ourselves of the equal value of every human life and committing to live honorably regardless of the behaviors of others can serve to protect us against ourselves in times of stress. If I truly care for others, its never worth the cost of regret to simply have my say. Boy, I wish I had learned this lesson long ago…

As I live out my days with two little boys in hearing of my words, I’m forever trying to be true to what I most desire. I desire to teach that love is patient and kind, it rejoices in the truth, it is not puffed up, does not seek its own, and never fails. This means I must practice this kind of love before them. I cannot be critical of others, jealous, hateful or hypocritical. I cannot teach what I’m not willing to live. My, this is a continually challenging call! I was thinking this morning how every command in scripture reveals our ever-present and all-consuming need of supernatural strength. When we are told to “love The Lord [our] God with all [our] heart” and to “love one another as [ourselves],” we are being asked to do what we, by our very selfish nature, cannot do lest so great a love be given to us from The Only Available Source, from God alone.

As I drove to work, my thoughts continued to consider this need and this desire for peace; peace within and between myself and others. My desires have changed and for that I am thankful. So many heartaches lie between my present desires and the former. I’ve learned the hard way that I truly don’t want ANYTHING that stands between me and peace with my Savior; nothing that competes with His rightful place on the throne of my heart. When I pray, I so often find myself settling in the only words that encompass the whole of my desire, “Thy will, oh Lord, be done.” I’ve come to know that His will is always best. Even when there is pain, if I’m in His will, He is my strength. If I’m outside of His will, the pain is bitter and cold and in it, I would have to stand alone. The choice to make, for those of us who have known both, is clear. There is no better place to be than in fellowship with the lover of the soul.

Why is this all on my mind? Trouble is always brewing either in my own life or in the lives of some who are close to my heart; the result of a fallen world. I have not forgotten that life is indeed a gift rich with blessings, but neither have I forgotten that it weighs heavily with strife. Encouragement matters. Without it, I would surely have given up in times past. Love was and is the sustainer. We come to places where we need others to see the good in us, the hope, the gifts, the strengths until we can once again find them for ourselves. Our friends are needed to show us the way…

As I’ve grown so tired battling this aggravating mono, my thoughts have continued to do their thing, ever searching for summations of truth that might lend what’s needed to another. Why do I care so much? Because I’ve needed and received so much, that is the reason.

In answer to my question, “how does it happen, the brokenness and strife?” I think it comes to one of two things. We have either failed to learn what matters most or we’ve allowed ourselves to forget.

Maybe this question would help us all make wise choices in words and deeds, “if today were my last, what would I say, what would I do, how would I want to be remembered by those who matter to me?” I’m pretty sure that this as our guide would lead us to build up instead of tear down, to forgive instead of condemn, to love instead of hate, and to smile instead of fight. When asking why God allows so much devastation, I’ve come to believe He is graciously allowing us to see the end result of different paths. We may have reasons, but will never have acceptable excuses for choosing the path that leads to destruction. We can’t claim we didn’t know where it would take us when we’ve seen countless others walk into the fire. When given a choice to do good or harm, choose good for goodness’ sake. It all matters.

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