“Who likes conflict?” Pastor Bob Kaylor asked to open Sunday’s sermon (read it here – hear it here). Not one hand was lifted at the 9:45 service. That’s not surprising. The angst, anxiety, and general discomfort of having someone angry with you is certainly unpleasant. But if it were not for conflict, life would be quite boring. As Pastor Bob pointed out, every good television show, movie, book, or really any good story, involves conflict. Conflict is what makes a story interesting and meaningful.
Pastor Bob’s introduction to his sermon in our Fables for Families series called “The Trouble with Triangles” reminded me of the story Donald Miller shares as the “Author’s Note” at the beginning of his fantastic book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (because I like the ring of “Saab story,” I changed Miller’s Volvo into a Saab):
If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a [Saab] and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot… Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a [Saab]…
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either (p. xiii).
We may not like conflict, but life is filled with it. Our mistake, I think, is that we work very hard to avoid it rather than learn how to manage it. We tend to choose “peace over progress,” as Edwin Friedman whose work is guiding this sermon series would put it. We tend to compromise our own feelings under the guise of being nice. I have found it is far more effective, and nicer, to deal directly with the conflict in our lives. It also makes for a far better story.
Otherwise, we are just living a Saab story.