Last fall, I learned something valuable about conflict from a woman named Joyce at the LA Dream Center.
Joyce is a huge character – a native Angelino, possibly in her 30’s, with tatts up her legs, basketball shorts and a hoodie. She is one of the leaders of the Dream Center’s food truck ministry and hollers out the window as she weaves her rattletrap delivery truck through LA traffic, loudly encouraging other drivers to GET THROUGH THAT LIGHT! I’ve never seen anybody who can shout in traffic, with the love of Jesus.
Joyce is compelling because she follows Jesus in her exact context, authentically and with heart. She didn’t tell me that. I witnessed it. She is my favorite kind of Christian because the love of God sprays out of her, like water from a kinked garden hose that’s riddled with holes and turned on high.
One morning as we were unpacking, sorting and loading food into the trucks, two of the fellas were bickering about who was driving what truck where. Feeding poor people every day is hard work and I sense these guys were a little worn out and cranky. It was nothing big, just the garden variety conflict that bedevils humans every day.
Joyce stepped in, straightened it out and then said, “K everybody time to go, let’s circle up and pray.”
Then rather than sending up some big, shiny prayer, Joyce just talked to God about what was happening at that moment. It wasn’t a rebuke to the bickerers, it was just an acknowledgment that we are inadequate when it comes to loving one another properly and we need help.
She said something like this:
Father God, we thank you for this day and Lord please help us to not bicker over who is taking what truck, and to remember why we are doing this, and please help us to be kind to each other and give us your strength to go feed some hungry people. Thank you that you love us even when we are cranky. Amen.
I’ve been thinking of that prayer all week because I had a small conflict I needed to confront. I didn’t want to be unkind but I also didn’t want to be phony and pretend the conflict didn’t exist. So I thought WWJD – What Would Joyce Do?
Well, she’d pray about it, then she’d be kind but blunt. So, I did that. And it wasn’t fun but now it’s over and peace rules in my land.
I’m sure Joyce doesn’t even remember me or that bickery little moment in the parking lot last fall, but I do, and that, I think, is a great truth about Christianity.
People respond to what we do as Christians, way more than what we say. When Christians do it right, by being honest, authentic, humble and kind, especially in conflict, it sprays like a garden hose on a hot day.
Conflict is certain. Our response is discretionary. Jesus helps.