A “Conflict” of Interest

The history books are wrong. World War III already happened. And I was there.

Okay, so maybe “World War III” is a bit of an exaggeration. But it was at least “World War 2.389”.

How did this confrontation begin? And how did it escalate to such epic proportions? Pull up a chair (or a couch… or an oversized dog), and I’ll tell you.

The setting: A day like any other day. The situation: A road trip like any other road trip. Everything was sunshine, daisies, and small furry animals… And then all heck broke loose.

It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, and my family embarked on a journey of a fortnight (technically, it was only a week, so it was actually a journey of half a fortnight). Usually, our family trips consisted of brief stays in Branson, Missouri, after finishing our term at Kanakuk Kamps. Occasionally, we would sojourn to a small Bed & Breakfast in an itty-bitty town where we’d spend the days taking in local historical sites… and the nights soaking up some cable TV. Although I loved visiting the birthplace of Amelia Earhart and thoroughly enjoyed Harry S Truman’s library collection, I looked forward to our bigger family trips. We took one of them after my freshman year of high school when we spent a week relaxing on the beach at Perdido Key, Florida. Another was our first-ever skiing adventure in Winter Park during my seventh-grade Christmas break. But the most memorable was definitely, without question, beyond all shadow of doubt our famous—or even infamous—great American Southwest adventure.

From the trip’s inception it was fated for disaster. Some would refer to it as “Murphy’s Law,” which states that what can go wrong will go wrong. However, my family, always striving to go above and beyond the call of duty, has developed its own version of this truism: What can go wrong—plus everything that can’t go wrong—will.

Take for example, Exhibit A: our family minivan. After years of faithfully functioning, the air conditioner decided to stop. No advance warning. No two weeks’ notice. Nothing. Just up and quit.  The vents still functioned, but like your boss, they were only full of hot air. The score? Fate: 1 point. My family: 0.

Now for Exhibit B: The seating situation. Normally, our van contained five seats in the back: three in one row and two in the other. On shorter highway excursions, this arrangement worked perfectly; I would get the middle two seats to myself while my twin sisters would split the back. Plenty of elbow room, leg room, and various other appendage room. However, this was no short highway excursion. This was a week-long expedition through the desert… Which meant that our car was FULL of supplies. Which further meant that we had to remove one set of seats. Which ultimately meant that my sisters and I would be stuck sharing the row of three seats for the entire 30+ hour drive. Yikes. One more point for Fate.

And finally, the real kicker. Exhibit C: The timing. We scheduled our road trip to coincide with the end of my term at Kanakuk Colorado. This seemed like an inspired plan. My family would drive from Kansas to Durango where they would pick me up, and we would begin our epic family adventure full of momentary smiles and lifelong memories. Perfect, right? Except for one tiny detail: My term ended in the first week of August. In case you aren’t very familiar with deserts in the Northern hemisphere, let me enlighten you. In general, deserts are hot. But in August, deserts are absolutely unbearable. Which leaves us at a score of Fate: 3 points. My family: Zip.

Here I would like to pause to summarize the situation to this point. And for all you left-brained individuals, I will even make it mathematical:

No Air Conditioning + Small Seating Space + August Heat + 3 Teenage Girls = Disaster.

Apparently, however, my sisters and I have low specific heats because it took us awhile to reach our boiling point. But when we did, the chemical reaction was irreversible—and highly explosive. So what was the catalyst for this cataclysmic occurrence?

Go Fish.

Yes, that’s right; the classic kindergarten card game was the back-breaking straw that left our family’s imaginary camel crying for help.

Up to this point, our trip had been relatively uneventful. My sisters and I had been getting along remarkably well as we read books, listened to Adventures in Odyssey and played “20 Questions” to pass the time. Somewhere in the middle of New Mexico, though, we shifted to card games. And that’s when things got ugly.

Although we’ve talked about it many times since then, none of us can remember how the fight started. Maybe someone said “Go Fish” in a meaner-than-necessary tone of voice. Maybe one of us accidentally glimpsed the other person’s cards. Or maybe nothing actually happened to instigate it. Regardless of the immediate cause, a battle broke out, and before long it escalated to an all-out war.

And here’s where things get interesting.

Instead of being concerned about the conflagration in the backseat, my parents decided to remain entirely neutral. (However, to call them “Switzerland” would be a gross misnomer; the front seat was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hot to be associated with the Alps.) Instead of interfering, they decided to let us duke it out. In my mom’s words, “They rarely fight, and that’s not healthy. Let them yell and scream and work it out. It’ll be good for them.” And so that’s exactly what we did. With my mom’s expressed blessing, we let out every morsel of pent-up frustration and emotion toward one another. Then, after exhausting ourselves, we laughed so hard we almost cried. And finally, we resumed our game of “Go Fish.” I’m pretty sure I won. 🙂

Although that road trip happened many years ago, it continues to live on in our family’s lore and in my memory.  My mom taught us a valuable lesson that day: Keeping emotions trapped inside you can be harmful. Even though conflict isn’t necessarily fun, working it out is essential. My sisters didn’t enjoy our now-legendary backseat fight, but it made the rest of the road trip a million times better. Because we could be honest with each other, our emotions no longer built up inside us; we could release them in a healthy manner.

God doesn’t want us to be pressure cookers about to explode. No, He desires that we sincerely love one another and live at peace with each other. And sometimes this peace must come through conflict and reconciliation. The Bible clearly tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger; we aren’t supposed to keep our frustration bottled up inside us. No, instead, we are called to work it out quickly. Like any wound, emotional problems fester and get infected if not treated quickly. If you truly care about someone, if you love them at all, then you must reconcile ASAP. Too much is at stake. And to do otherwise could have heartbreaking consequences.

That’s why God calls us work out our conflicts straight away. The sooner we do, the better off—and happier—we’ll be.

Okay, enough about conflict and “Go Fish.” Who’s up for a game of “War”? 😉

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