“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” ~ Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)
I recently had a chance to spend a week in South Dakota with about 20 guys for a pheasant hunting trip. The week began with two concerts in Marion, SD, where I got to sing with my dad and grandpa, as well as the Neilson brothers. How that whole thing got started is really a story in itself. This trip usually consists of about 8 pastors, each who bring one of their kids or someone from their church. I don’t know if you’ve ever been around pastors when they are away from their responsibilities as pastors…but they let loose a bit…haha. In a good way, but these guys, especially these Neilson brothers unwind and one of the things they would always do, whether we were in the checkout line at the grocery store or in the middle of Culver’s in Mitchell, SD, they would randomly start singing.
One day we were in the Woonsocket grocery store, called the “Woony Market” (You can’t even make that up), and we somehow broke out into singing “Daddy Sang Bass” at the checkout line…there was a lady behind us who tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we ever performed professionaly…I laughed until I realized she was serious. She was in charge of planning the next year’s Thanksgiving entertainment for the town’s community celebration. Ever since then (that was about 6 years ago), we’ve had chances to sing on our hunting trip.
Anyways, I told you that story to tell you this story. I do have a point here I promise!
So this year, we finished up our concerts and headed to the cabin in Woonsocket. We wake up the next morning to 3” of snow on the ground – perfect for pheasant hunting. We load up and walk the first two fields with some success.
As we’re heading back to the truck, the “old man club,” our affectionate name for those who had graduated into being able to drive to the end of the field, walk 20 feet, and stand there and “block,” which is a hunting term meaning, “wait for the young guys to bust their rears through 2 miles of thick, frozen cattails so I can shoot all the birds” they are already at the truck getting unloaded. It’s about this time for me that I remember how out of shape I am and that this could be a really long week. (SIDE NOTE: I have nothing but respect for the "Old Man's Club." I aspire to be a member one day - and watch my son do all the work!)
I came around the tailgate of my dad’s brand new, shiny blue, Ford F150 and loaded my lab, Boone, in the back. All of the sudden, “BANG!!” A gun goes off. Ears still ringing, my first reaction is to look down and see if I’ve been shot. No blood. I look up and see that my grandpa was sitting in the passenger side of the truck and I run to check on him. He’s fine. I look through the cab to see Bruce, eyes as wide as a silver dollar, face as white as the snow on the ground.
Bruce had just accidentally fired his gun. There was a moment of confusion and everyone looking around to make sure no one had been hit. Everyone was fine. But there was one casualty. Bruce had blown a hole through my dad’s driver-side door. He had opened the door to get in, chose not to unload his gun and forgot that his safety was still on, and shot #3 bird shot through dad’s brand new truck. It was only the size of a nickel on the inside of the door, but when I walked around the door, it had blown a hole about 4” on the outside panel.
You can imagine how quiet the ride was after that. No one said anything for about 3 hours. Bruce never left the truck the rest of the day while the rest of us continued hunting.
I was in the backseat next to Bruce, trying to put myself in his shoes. I'm sure he felt ashamed, embarrassed, and a whole host of other emotions. Someone could have been killed. But the most interesting person to watch was my dad through this whole ordeal. He had every “right” to blow up at Bruce and tell him what an idiot he was to put a loaded gun in the truck. But he didn’t. He showed Bruce grace.
We were on our way back to the cabin after limiting out that Monday. Still no words had been spoken yet. My dad finally broke the ice, “Bruce, what happened today was pretty scary. You could have shot my dad. You could have shot my son. Bruce, I’m glad you shot my truck. Money can replace a door. I forgive you and we’re ready to restore you back to this group whenever you are ready.”
Wow. I gained a lot of respect for my dad that day. It was a great example to all in the group of us on what it means to reflect Christ in the way we handle a conflict – especially one where a mistake could have easily cost someone their life.
Have you ever been in a situation where something happened and you had an opportunity to maybe blow up or tell someone off? I think we have all been there before. I can say that there are times in my life where I handled it well, and there have been times where I handled it poorly.
Ken Sande has a book, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, that I would highly recommend. It has been a top 20 book for me in my journey. He has “4 G’s of Peacemaking” that I think are dead on. I’d encourage you to spend some time thinking about these this week:
What would it look like, the next time your spouse, or kids, or co-worker does something that misses the mark? What if, instead of blowing their head off with frustration, entered the situation with grace and understanding?
I challenge you to look for opportunities this week to reflect Christ’s love and grace in the ways that you handle conflict.