At Co.tribute, we go through whiteboard markers like there’s no tomorrow. I have countless pictures on my phone containing lists that we’ve made, notes from brainstorming sessions, and campaign execution plans (because for some reason I feel the need to take 10 of the exact same photo every time we erase anything). We LIVE on our whiteboards. In fact, my team and I recently started writing on our own window because we got tired of constantly walking over to the board in the conference room (which is a torturous 20 feet away). Sometimes you have to tilt your head at a strange angle to read things and your neck starts to hurt, but it makes us seem cool and creative - so I’ve decided it’s worth it.
Often, the window starts to look pretty chaotic. It’s full of abbreviations, random arrows, and complex diagrams. Sometimes I arrive in the morning and read a note that I wrote the day before, only to realize that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. But regardless, I love that messy and complicated window because it perfectly represents the sweet chaos of good things that are in process.
The window is full of our goals, dreams, and plans. It’s full of amazing and terrible ideas. We’re constantly learning new lessons, and every week we erase some of the stuff we’ve finished, re-organize what’s left on the list, and keep pushing forward. All the while, we keep our eyes on the goals we wrote out in the top right corner – and we celebrate every time we get a little closer. We enjoy the thrill of the journey, because we’re on it together – and because we know we’re headed somewhere that’s going to be even more epic, more beautiful, and more fulfilling than where we are now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships after writing about why we need each other. Some friends and I have been reading through Mere Christianity by CS Lewis (one of my all-time favorites), and we just got to the sections about forgiveness, marriage, sex, pride, and love. The whole book is incredible, but this part in particular cuts straight to the heart. It’s all about the hard stuff – loving people when they hurt you, seeing the best in others, thinking of yourself less, and staying committed when the emotions aren’t there. It’s everything we’ve heard before, but need to hear over and over and over again – because we so easily forget.
It’s easy to forget these things because we’re constantly fed the lie that relationships should be easy. They’re supposed to be fun, picture-perfect, and simple. They’re supposed to look more like an organized, color-coded spreadsheet than an overcrowded whiteboard. But in spite of what the media and Instagram tries to tell us, deep down I think we know the truth: that when you authentically connect with people, things often get complicated.
This isn’t exactly new information – most of us have grown up being told, especially in the church, that relationships are hard. We’re warned about how difficult marriage is, we’re told that we need to forgive, and we get the fact that as broken people, we’re going to hurt each other. We have countless books, seminars, and Buzzfeed articles on how to navigate conflict and set good boundaries (some more helpful than others). Apparently Biola even has a new chapel series on the best way to DTR.
What I think we don’t focus on enough, though, is the fact that sometimes in spite of your best efforts to go through all the “right” steps, things remain just a little more messy than you want them to be. And as long as we’re headed in the right direction together – as long as we keep our eyes on the goal – the messiness is more than okay, and we should all just try to calm down about it.
Of course, if you’re in an abusive or emotionally unhealthy relationship, it’s wise to remove yourself from it. It’s important to choose well when you’re surrounding yourself with people, because you will become like them. What I’m referring to here is the idea that being in process is actually normal – and if we stop being so afraid of it, if we stop panicking every time we have a difficult conversation or an awkward encounter – perhaps we could find a little more freedom to enjoy the journey, and all the chaos that it brings, without living in fear.
But how exactly are we supposed to do this?
As it does with most things of this nature, I’m pretty sure that the solution starts internally. When I realize that I myself am always going to be in process, it frees me up to let others be in the same boat. And if we’re all in the same boat, we might as well relax and have fun while we’re on it together.
I’d like to propose two ways to start:
- Constantly keep our own needs for grace in view: and in doing so, humble ourselves enough to relate to those around us. This doesn’t mean that we’ll always agree, but it does mean that we’ll be less quick to judge or criticize because we’re aware of our own weaknesses.
- Keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, which is not to be “right” or to figure out the formula for easy relationships. It is to love people authentically, and point them towards a Love that is more fierce and patient and unconditional than ours could ever be. When this is the goal, all the little things that would typically offend us start to slowly fade away.
The most well-researched series of tips on conflict resolution will never work for me if I don’t realize that I myself am broken – and that in this life, I always will be.
The important thing is that, as someone who is broken, I enter into community with other broken people who are forever committed to growth, forgiveness, humility, and love. As long as we’re all crystal clear on the goals – in this case, healthy relationships, deeper connection, and lives that honor Christ – all the stuff in between will fall into place. It will get frustrating and exhausting at times, and it might become more messy than we want it to be, but in the end it will turn out to be the most amazing adventure.