Hi, my name is Christine and I do not like conflict. Anyone else with me? Conflict is something I will shy away from, maybe even run from at times. Maybe some of you don't mind it as much and maybe some of you even thrive off conflict. I am not one of those people! It is something I have had to slowly learn to not be afraid of because sometimes beautiful things can come from conflict.
This has been surprising, but I have found that my faith has been a source of conflict for some people. Most of the times, it comes up at the airport. The airport seems to be a hot spot for all kinds of conversations! I am building up a collection of good stories to share later! But for now, here is one...
I was flying home from New York where I was visiting my brother and his family. I sat down in my seat and there was an older gentleman sitting at the window seat. As I normally do (because the reality of flying kind of scares me) I pulled out my rosary beads. The older gentlemen next to me looked over to see my rosary. He remarked with a gruntled voice, "Oh, you must be catholic." I didn't even have to look at the man to know his eyes were rolling. My heart started racing immediately. I went into panic mode within 3 seconds flat. I had this overwhelming thought of, "I need to be able to counter attack all of his misconceptions and prove to him that I am not crazy because I am catholic!" So, I turned to face the man, took a deep breath, and before I could get a word out he said, "You've got it wrong."
For the next 30 minutes or so, I sat there listening to this man go through scientific theory after scientific theory trying to disprove God and the Catholic Church. At first, I was trying really hard to concentrate on all he was saying so I could combat each statement. Then, it hit me. I have the Holy Spirit and He knows everything! I literally prayed in my heart, "Come Holy Spirit, give me the words to say!" Instantly, I was calmed. Then it was clear, I just needed to listen to this man and the Holy Spirit will lead the way. As I listened, my own heart softened. This man had been through a lot of suffering in his life and he just couldn't see that if there was a God, that He was actually good.
At one point, we were on the topic of purpose. I had told him that as Christians we believe God created everything with purpose. He laughed and sat in silence for a minute. I could just tell he was about to throw something at me (not literally, but figuratively). As he was laughing he said, "Ok, you Christians think everything has purpose. So, go ahead and tell me the purpose of broccoli." In that split moment, I was relieved it wasn't some abstract concept, but then I began to panic because it was so unexpected! As I sat there, (fully relying on the Holy Spirit to get me out of this one), it came to me. I looked at the man and said, "Of course broccoli has purpose...to eat it!" The man immediately went into laughter and I followed suit. He admitted, "You got me there!"
After our flight landed, he had told me that he was a science professor at a well-known college. I realized that I knew a science professor there as well who happend to be a devout christian and practicing catholic. I encouraged the man to reach out to my friend. A day to two later, I found out that the man I knew had just started a series in the science department about being a scientist AND a Christian!
I don't know what happend to this man, but this experience taught me something...conflict is not bad. We should not be afraid of it either. There is beauty in vulnerability. We need to allow space for people to be vulnerable and be vulnerable in return. We need to invite the Holy Spirit into our conflicts, He wants to be there and He is a game changer. When we invite Him in, He begins to transform our own hearts.
I hope and pray this man realizes there is still good in the world...because God is good and God is still here.