It sometimes seems that we go through our lives wanting so badly to make a difference and wanting to form meaning out of nothingness. So often we look for companionship in our new 55” LCD TV or in our new Acura SUV with heated seats and extra cup holders. The loneliness still persists. We work 40+ hours per week, climb the corporate ladder, run ourselves to death, only to feel ultimately empty. Contentment is only a nebulous theory that we unknowingly strive for but can’t seem to grasp what it might be like to arrive at. The conflict in my life internally or externally seems to destroy my hope for utter contentment. Maybe it isn’t possible to be content. Maybe we were not created to be utterly content here.
I went to listen to one of my favorite author speak the other night. He proposed a preposterous hypothesis that perhaps God meant for us to have conflict in our lives. This made me begin to contemplate why the God that I had been taught about would ever want me to have conflict in my life. Having thought through various ideas, I soon realized that the God that had been presented to me in Sunday school up through high school and even some in college was not the real God. The God I grew up learning about was said to have told me that if I went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights, didn’t have sex until I was married, didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t use bad words, and most importantly didn’t use musical instruments in worship (This one makes me laugh hysterically) then He would take care of me and I would be happy for the most part. I put my coin of good behavior in the God slot machine and more times than not the God slot machine would pay off rewarding me with good things. It was somewhat of a barter system because God obviously needs me to behave down here and likewise I needed for things to go smoothly in my life right? This is not the God I now know and have a relationship with. More importantly this is not the God that I know from reading the ancient texts.
As I continue, I do not hide the fact that much of what I am saying is a twist of what Donald Miller writes and spoke on a few nights ago as I sat soaking up his words like a fair skinned red headed child soaking up UV rays. Perhaps when God created the world, He placed conflict in it for a reason. Perhaps conflict was present before the fall of man. Don Miller led me to Genesis chapter 2 where Adam and God are hanging out in the Garden. Let’s not forget that the Garden of Eden is a perfect environment. Things were physically and emotionally as God meant for them to be. Then we read chapter 2. God made Adam but Adam was lonely. God said, “It is not good for my man Adam here to be alone.” This is the first time that something is “Not good.” So in the epitome of perfection; a perfect man, a perfect God whom the perfect man is in relationship with, a perfect environment for the perfect man to be in relationship to a perfect God, there is conflict. So then God creates Eve right? Wrong. God then brings all of the birds and fish and animals to Adam to name them. Now imagine how long that would have taken to name all of the animals. 20-50-100-150 years maybe. For 150 years, things were not as they should have been. Things were not ultimately good because it was not good for the man to be alone. For 150 years, however, God allowed Adam to be alone while Adam worked. Why would God allow this conflict to intentionally persist? God could have created Eve once He realized that there was a discrepancy between the way things should have been and the way things were.
It is here that we realize why God gets paid the big bucks. It is here that we acknowledge that it is good that we are not in control and that He is. I struggle to wrap my mind around how He uses conflict to our benefit though. I lightly dabble in the thought that by creating conflict God is trying to draw me into a more intimate relationship with Him. I say lightly dabble though because that explanation sounds so cliché. In part, this may be true. There is more to it than that though. Perhaps conflict also lets us appreciate part of creation. The toil and sweat of a farmer in his field makes the harvested crop more greatly appreciated. The storm makes the calm seas more welcomed. The loneliness of the man in the Garden makes the creation of a companion so appreciated, so cherished, and so treasured that he would surely delight in this gift that God had generously given him. Conflict in creation is God’s blessing to us in balancing that which we yearn for and struggle against. It is when we can understand the role of conflict that we might take the nothingness, the loneliness, and the emptiness and allow God to form our meaning and define contentment for us.