I’m new to PCC, and new to the Peninsula. I recently moved here from Fauquier County, where I’d lived for nearly forty years. I’m building an in-law suite onto the house owned by my daughter, Becky Chappell, and her husband Chris.
As I write, men are pouring concrete into carefully dug ditches in the backyard. They’re laying the foundation for what will be my new home. They’ve followed the plans, measured and re-measured. They’ve smoothed the sides of the ditches, and laid in reinforcing bar and a copper “ground” wire. At this moment, they’re using a Georgia buggy to transport wet concrete from the truck out front to the back yard. Load by load, they’re expertly guiding it into the ditches and smoothing it so it will dry level.
It’s important to get the foundation right. I appreciate the care they’re taking with it.
I was raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C., the middle of three daughters. Growing up, my family was active in a mainline-denomination church. Innumerable Sunday school lessons, children’s choir practices, and vacation Bible schools filled my growing up years. I figuratively climbed Jacob’s ladder, learned about “a wee little man,” and earned a whole string of perfect attendance Sunday school pins.
It was a good upbringing and I am very grateful to my parents for it. But as a spiritual foundation it was flawed: I was taught Bible stories but not the Bible. I knew nothing of sin or salvation. Miracles, I was told, were explainable, natural phenomena used to illustrate a point. I believed in God, but I didn’t think he was involved (or cared about) my everyday life. I was well-behaved, a “good girl,” or so I thought. I never knew just how very much I needed Jesus.
For various reasons, I entered my college years riddled with insecurity. One by one my compensations—academic achievement, marriage, and fast career success—failed me. By my mid-twenties my emotional life was falling apart. My spiritual foundation was too shaky to support me. I found myself deep in a miry pit.
But God had His eye on me the whole time. In the midst of my despair, someone came along and explained grace to me. A colleague shared the Gospel. A friend invited me to Bible study. Gradually, God lifted me out of that pit and set my feet on solid ground—the firm foundation of Truth, contained in the Word of God.
The Bible says a lot about foundations. Job wrestled with God over his circumstances until God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” and Job realized he was “of small account.” We all know about the man who laid the foundation of his house on sand—and the wise man who built his on a rock. Jesus is called the “chief cornerstone,” the most important part of a structure, the stabilizer.
But I think my favorite reference to foundations in the Bible comes from Ephesians 1:4: “… he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
This God who in my childhood I saw as remote and vaguely displeased with me chose me before the foundation of the world, before anything was created, before time began, long before I emerged kicking and screaming from my mother’s womb. And why? Not because He could predict I’d be a good little girl, but so that in my fallenness and failure I would grasp the hem of Jesus’s garment and receive his blood-bought salvation.
As I’m finishing this, it’s the end of the day and the workers are headed home, leaving the cement foundation to cure and dry. Soon they’ll add block and brick, then beams and joists, framing, trusses and roof. In due time, my house will be built, strong and sturdy, able to withstand whatever storms may come. And I’ll rest easy on my sure foundation.
One of the hardest things about being part of the Body of Christ is when brothers and sisters in Christ find themselves in conflict with each other. While conflict among people is part of life in this broken world, perhaps it’s so painful when it happens in the Body because we know it’s not supposed to be this way. After all, Christ died to reconcile us not only to God, but to each other. (1 Cor 5:18)
Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson speaks to the reality of conflict between believers. But more than that, the authors give practical and biblical counsel on how to work towards forgiveness, ownership of one’s own part in any conflict and reconciliation between warring parties. And while this book is just one hundred pages and looks more like a pamphlet than a book, I found its contents to be God-infused balm for my soul.
After a few brief chapters explaining the nature of conflict, the over-arching hope of the Gospel and figuring out our too-often misguided go-to response to strife, Sande and Johnson delve into the tools, mindset and faith we need to work through conflict in order to get to restoration and/or resolution.
Too often, the reason a disagreement or misunderstanding moves into conflict is because we forget or neglect to take our issues to God. But we forget that each and every situation that He brings into our lives is a chance to bring Him Glory and for us to grow in love and godliness. “Instead of noticing God’s higher purpose of using conflict to demonstrate his love and power in our lives, we continue to see conflict either as a threat to flee from or a chance to force our will on others.”
There were a couple of points that particularly resonated with me. First, we are called to overlook a multitude of sins in others. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov 19:11) Too often we (I) can overlook a fault/sin/offense in my own heart but can be too quick to point it out in someone else. The authors remind us that, “the ability to overlook a fault is rare. Yet that is how God treats us.” While there are some situations that need to be pursued, our first question to ourselves should be, “Is this worth fighting over?” or worth pursuing at all.
And that leads to the second point any one of us needs to remember when engaging in conflict with the hope of restoration: we need to take that plank out of our own eye before we take the speck out of the other person’s (Matt 7:3). Here the authors make a penetrating point. “Even if I’m only 2 percent responsible for a conflict, I’m 100 percent responsible for my 2 percent.” Owning up to that 2 percent (although it’s usually more than that!), confessing it before the Lord and then admitting it to the opposing party is a sign not only of humility, but one of self-knowledge and maturity. The Lord can use such a confession to break the heart of the person who holds 98 percent of the responsibility.
“As far as it is possible with you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom 12:18) God does not guarantee a completely restored relationship with another human when we approach someone else with the desire to work through a conflict. That takes give and take from both sides. But what we can work at, is our own open and humble heart before the sovereign Lord and a genuine desire to see Him glorified even in difficult situations and relationships.
These are just three things that stood out to me as I, a sinner in my own right, deal with other sinners both within and outside the Body of Christ. This little gem of a book holds much wisdom for a believer working to make amends where there has been a breach. Next time you find yourself with a roiling gut because of a perceived hurt, or maybe someone else has come to you with a roiling gut, pick up this book. Better yet, pick it up before your gut ever starts to roil.
Here you can read perspectives on life, ministry and God's Word from a variety of PCC's female leaders.