“Deal with grievances as they arise. Don’t stack them on top of one another or let them fester inside until they turn to hostility. Anger’s always a secondary emotion. If spouses back up to what preceded it, they’ll often find hurt. If they reveal the hurt, they’ll weaken the walls that separate them.”
There are so many circumstances that make it possible to drive up walls of conflict between husbands and wives as we live together day in and day out. But the question is, “What do we do when communication breaks down and hostility rises up to drive a wedge between us?”
We’d like to share a story to bring insight into what we’re to do in just such a circumstance. It’s titled: What Do We Build? Unfortunately we don’t know who the author is so we can’t give them proper credit, but the story goes that:
Once, there were two brothers who lived on adjoining farms who fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift they’d had in 40 years of farming side-by-side. They used to share machinery and trade labor and goods as each of them needed, without a single hitch. But then the long collaboration fell apart.
It began with a small misunderstanding and eventually grew into a major difference until finally —it exploded into an ugly exchange of bitter words which was followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work” he said. Would you happen to have anything around here that I could help you with?”
“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother’s place! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there’s a creek between us. He may have done this to spite me, but I’m going to do him one better.
See that pile of lumber over there by the barn? I want you to build me a fence —an 8-foot fence —so I won’t have to see my brother’s farm or his face anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me where you have some nails and a post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that will please you.”
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing and nailing.
About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped at what he saw. There wasn’t a fence there at all. It was a bridge —a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! It was beautifully built with handrails and all! He then saw the neighbor —his younger brother, coming toward them, with his hand outstretched. “You’re really remarkable —to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then walked toward each other meeting in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They then turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. The older brother yelled out, “No, wait! Stay for a few days. I have a lot of other projects for you to do.” “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have a lot more bridges to build.”
And so do we whenever we give grievances against one another. As one author wrote:
“Most problems start with hurt. After the hurt mulls around in our mind for a while, it becomes infected. (You can end up being angry at “the insensitive louse that only cares about what they do.) That’s why it’s important to plan peace talks as soon as possible, before hurt turns to anger. Most people are moved by another person’s pain, so revealing hurt can build bridges of understanding and compassion. But venting hostility blows up bridges, because people are repelled by angry assaults. When someone attacks, our natural reaction is to fight back.”
Are you one who blows up bridges in your family or are you a bridge builder—taking seriously the message of reconciliation that the Bible talks about? We need to keep in mind that
“We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them“ (2 Corinthians 5:19 – The Message).
We’re told in Matthew 5:14-16,
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.“
It’s our sincere prayer that we’ll take this special commissioning to heart to be Christ’s representatives —allowing His light to shine, to be His ambassadors to our world, our community, our city, and most definitely our homes.
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.“ (Ephesians 5:1-2 – The Message)
Our love is with you as together we work to make our marriages pure reflections of the love of God in and through us.