Our family has been working hard to get off the gerbil wheel of activities. Kyle's baseball season is over and we are taking a break from official games, which means one less thing to do Wednesdays and on weekends. Jessi's First LEGO League tournament is over and we have our Monday and Thursday afternoons back. Elizabeth's aerial's performance is next week, which will involve three days and that activity won't be renewed, mainly because we will in the near future be dealing with the extra costs of her having a driving permit. John is the only one who still has two activities, Cub Scouts and Tae Kwon Do, but both of those at this point are only one day each. The gerbil wheel of activties is being dismantled. We are seeing positive affects on our family, which is even better news.
In the past three weeks, however, I have discovered another type of gerbil wheel as I have had to deal with increasing interpersonal conflict in one of the kids' activities and that is a gerbil wheel of the thoughts. As a person seemed to become increasingly hostile, God gave me several orders, each of which were difficult and could only be done by the Holy Spirit changing my pride-filled, natural self:
- Philippians 4:8--Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever, is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, focus on those things.
- Ephesians 4:31-32--Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander and every form of malice. Instead, be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other just as in Christ Jesus, God forgave you.
The gerbil wheel of the mind is the bad stuff listed in the Ephesians passage as well as the critical attitude that goes against Philippians 4:8. When we are in tough situations, it is so easy to fall into griping and anger and bitterness and to view ourselves as the "innocent victim" rather than the co-collaborator. In this situation, I know that I was definitely a co-collaborator. I also know that at the beginning of the conflict, I made every attempt to make peace by acknowledging what I knew at the time to be my sins, asking forgiveness and and asking the person to bring up any other offensive conduct on my part so that I could work on my conduct. And yet it the conflict became worse. The person stopped talking to me. So I clung to these two verses and whenever the gerbil wheel invited me to get on, I made a Philippians 4:8 list of the person's good qualities and I forgave the person for any offenses against me. The immediate affect was that whenever I actually did that, I felt peace regarding the situation, because I knew God was working in it and He was helping me. He also transformed my mind so that I was able to feel kindness and compassion for the other person, rather than letting bitterness set in. And this was really important because there came a time when we were generally avoiding each other because the situation was becoming too hard. However, we both knew the day was coming in which we would have to face each other. And once again, when that day came, God helped me by waking me up with a vision of the humor in the situation--it really probably reads like a bad "womance*" novel if I went into all the detail. I could laugh at myself and at the absurdity of it, which is just the first victory. And because He had been training me, when we did end up looking each other in the eye, I was able to offer a compliment--one of the many "excellent and praiseworthy" things upon which I dwelt--as a peace offering. I saw the person relax and we were able to talk again peaceably. So the Prince of Peace worked his "magic" on two stubborn people through His word. What a great Christmas present! And as a result, we will be getting together to evaluate what went wrong so that we can both learn from the experience and so that our friendship can grow.
* if guys can have a "bromance", women should be able to have a "womance". And the plot of all bad romance novels is that the boy and girl meet and like each other but some misunderstanding threatens their relationship because they refuse to talk to each other about the situation until the very end, when all details are wrapped up nicely and they live happily ever after. I hate bad romance novels. And this situation, even though good came of it, had some negative consequences, both for the adults and for the kids involved in the activity that only God can redeem.