Wednesday, July 07, 2004

conflict and community

Somewhere along the way, probably in a college literature class, (if you stayed awake long enough!), you learned about the essential elements of story. It seems every great story has the same four elements: setting, conflict, climax, and resolution. And for some reason, our hearts and minds respond to this same formula over and over again.

Your story, my story, every story takes place somewhere. In a house, in a neighborhood, in an office, or in a family, and the setting usually includes other people. Which is probably why the second element—conflict—is ever present. Something breaks. Someone breaks someone else. Loneliness, pride, tension, anger, fighting, self-absorption abound. It’s inevitable. If you want to write a novel that sells, you’ve got to have conflict.

Our hearts identify with conflict and they long for resolution. We want things made right. We want to live in peace with each other and in peace with our own souls. But sitting right there between conflict and resolution is the fourth element that all good stories have, and it’s the element that trips us up the most.

Climax is that point of decision that determines the end of the story. It’s the moment of time when our hearts must choose, and the choices we make result in a good or bad resolution. Climax is our response to conflict and our pathway to resolution.

Why is the Bible such a great story? Because it offers humanity a staggering resolution to the pervasive conflict we are tangled in, and because it places us in the same place as all those who have gone before us—at the climactic moment—when our choices determine how our story ends.

The story of NieuCommunities is still being written. But the elements of a great story are already present. We are now into our third year and we have already seen every member of every NieuCommunities group so far experience the four elements of story.

Each community starts in a setting usually rich with adventure, hope, and idealism. But it doesn’t take long before conflict seeps in and begins to rule the day. The little nuances we overlooked in the beginning now drive us nuts. We’re surprised when our “honesty” actually wounds or offends people. We’re frustrated when people don’t “get us.” We’re taken aback when people don’t actually want to hear everything on our minds. And we flat out become weary of trying to keep up the protective barriers we’ve spent a lifetime honing to perfection.

But sooner or later every one of us must choose what we will do with the conflict all around us. Will I settle for the status quo? Will I just tolerate people and ride it out? Will I withdraw? Or will I lean in and embrace? Will I love? Will I choose to be there for others in the climactic moment of their story?

The resolution of each life and each community hinges on these weighty decisions. And while we can certainly influence the outcome of each story, we simply can’t script it. It’s up to every player in every cast to determine the resolution of their story.

For now, I can only say that I am really proud of the choices our sojourners have made. They have fought well and loved hard. And the resolutions to the stories we have seen have been sweet in almost every case.

And if there is anything we have learned so far as we write this NieuCommunities story, it’s that community with one another is only sustainable when it flows out of individual communion with God. None of us really has the ability to do life together or love each other well unless we are each doing life with God and experiencing his tender love for us. At the end of the day, it’s God’s overflowing love for us that will spill over and splash onto those around us. When we are overwhelmed with his gracious, embracing love for us, we are able to move beyond the conflicts we experience and press through to sweet resolution.

Thank you for being such a significant part of this story and for sharing in this journey. Would you continue to pray that God’s love would abound in our communities and that the choices of our hearts would be the choices God would be delighted with? Thanks!!!

1 comment:

Steve Hoke said...

Big Rob:
You have hit the nail on the head with your thots on authenticity. Like you, I want it, am attracted to it, and at times find it difficult to be vulnerable. But I find I quickly tire of being in groups where it seems that the rest of us have to endure the shower of unprocessed emotion, personal dirty laundry, and issues that really would be better handled in a more intimate, loving environment of closer friends.
LOVE is what we are after. Authenticity is an aspect of genuine love that we are all discovering how best to share.