Tag Archives: conflict

What Would Jesus Do?

So I have a What Would Jesus Do problem.

I don’t usually use the WWJD phrase, even in my own private thought life much less out loud. That’s partly because when I find myself tempted to ask what Jesus would do, I often deep down already know the answer and have previously avoided acknowledging said answer because I don’t like it.

Oh, and also because whenever I hear “What Would Jesus Do?” I think of charm bracelets and neatly packaged “how to live life” seminars and my kitsch radar goes off and I think “Laaa-aaame”. And thinking the word “lame” is not something I feel quite right doing when I’m also thinking about Jesus. Thinking “lame” in conjunction with Jesus instinctively makes me feel that I’m risking a divinely-inspired lightening strike, and acknowledging that feeling makes me wonder (once again) whether I understand grace or really comprehend who Jesus was at all.

No, easier just to sidestep that whole quagmire by not asking myself what Jesus would do.

Which is a pity, really, because when you stop to think about it it’s not a bad question to ask if you hold Jesus in high esteem.

Anyway, my problem. My problem that’s made me wonder what Jesus would do.

The neighbors just over the back fence have started woodworking again. They’ve been at it with electric sanders and power saws almost every day now for the past month. They often start at about 8 AM and go for up to seven hours a day. There is nowhere in this house I can go to escape the noise. It’s particularly bad in Dominic’s room (which overlooks the neighbors house). I’ve been putting him to sleep for his naps on my bed most of the time because our room is quieter. If he’s in his cot when the saws start up, he wakes up.

I find it hard to explain just how insane that high-pitched, shrieking whine drives me. How, now, whenever I hear them start up around 8AM in the morning my blood pressure jumps up ten notches and I’m flooded with righteous anger. For what they’re doing is technically illegal. You’re not supposed to run a noisy business within the city limits of Luang Prabang.

So, you see, what they’re doing is WRONG.

And, yet.

As Mike regularly reminds me.

They are poor. They probably aren’t poor enough that food is in short supply, but who knows. They almost definitely are poor enough that most of those extra dollars they are making from this illegal business are not being spent on lattes at Starbucks but, presumably, on things like school books and uniforms for their children.

I hope they’re spending the money on school uniforms, anyway, because when I think about the fact that they might be spending it on Beerlao, that’s just crazy-making.

Some of Mike’s Lao colleagues have visited these neighbors on our behalf to remind them of the agreement we reached almost a year ago that they only use these power tools three days a month. That made them cut back a little, but not enough. We’ve complained to the village chief, who basically suggested we move house. Last night, Mike rang me from Vientiane (where he’s been most of the week) to tell me that four government officials and a couple of his colleagues would be showing up at our house this morning to have a meeting about the issue.

Sigh.

The whole thing makes me feel icky, as if I’m acting like a wealthy, entitled expatriate, even though I cannot imagine that anyone else living around us enjoys being assaulted by the screeching din of power tools on a daily basis, either.

So, what would Jesus do?

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that “bribing the government officials to put pressure on the poverty-stricken woodcutter over the back fence” is out. Would Jesus have put up with it? Moved house? Paid the neighbor not to work? Paid rent for a work-space outside of town where these sorts of businesses are legal? Tried to negotiate some sort of compromise? Gone quietly insane? Packed up the baby while Mike was away on one of these work trips and high-tailed it to Australia?

Yeah, that one’s probably out, too.

Sigh.

Have you had a What Would Jesus Do (or your spiritual equivalent) problem lately? What was it?

(This is a Life Unmasked post. To read more Life Umasked posts by other bloggers hope over to Joy’s website)

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Conflict – avoid or embrace?

I had all sorts of other topics I was going to blog about this week – missionaries, motorbikes, and mangoes. But the week has been dominated by the house, so it seems fair that the blog should be too – for a little while longer, at least.

Some good things have happened. I had a really great chat on skype with our landlady, who lives in Tennessee at the moment. Mike and I figured out that if we sleep in the second bedroom the room is both darker and quieter – I can still hear roosters, but they are not nearly as strident. And the kitchen table has been a fun place to work this last couple of days. We don’t actually have anything kitchenish to clutter up that space yet, so I have commandeered the kitchen bench.

It is currently covered with small pieces of paper, each inscribed with a scene or a theme for the book I’m working on. I have the beginning of the story arc all mapped out, and the end, but the middle is just a mess of tiny pieces of paper marked with things like “cyberdating and filter theory”, “taxi driver’s treatise on love”, “interview – Vancouver”, “faith? and hope?” I’m hoping that being able to actually shift pieces of the puzzle around will help as I push forward with the narrative.

Ironically, the chapter that I am working on right now deals with a failed romance that taught me just how much of a conflict avoider I can be. And what has happened as we have moved in and tested out the house this week has shown me clearly that, although I have grown in leaps and bounds in this area, risking conflict is still not a personal strength.

We have emailed our distant landlord and the young man who has overseen our move-in three times already in the last three days with detailed descriptions of things that are happening around here that are, well, less than completely desirable.

So when I got up this morning to find Mike drafting up another letter about the water pressure (or lack thereof) in the upstairs bathrooms, my first instinct was to say, “Um… maybe we shouldn’t bring that up right now. There are lots of things on the ‘needs attention’ list already.”

“There is almost no water coming out of the sink in the middle bedroom,” Mike said. “The shower is only dripping this morning. The hot water heater in the other bedroom doesn’t work and the pressure’s only marginally better in there at the moment anyway. You know what that means? A cold shower for you this morning.”

“OK,” I said quickly, “Send the email.”

But now Mike has gone off to work and I’m left here to talk to the young man who is coming by with a handyman to make a start on things. I don’t think Mike and I are this young man’s favorite people in the world right now. And, much as I try to tell myself that we are really not being unreasonable, I know I’m going to have to work to keep myself from pre-empting my show and tell of the problems with a string of apologies.

“I’m really sorry we broke the bed in the master bedroom on the first night. I swear we didn’t provoke it – Mike merely sat on the bed and the (too small) nails on that entire side (that was not properly braced) just came apart.”

“I’m really sorry that the lights flicker and dance in a dim, distracting, ballet whenever we have the effrontery to have some lights and an AC on at the same time. Or, even worse, try for hot water.”

“I’m really sorry that a four year old can open some of the windows from the outside of the house because the window locks are so flimsy.”

Lest you think I am venturing into spiteful hyperbole on this last one, I’m not. This is exactly how we found out about this problem when we were showing some friends around the house last night. Their curious four-year-old put her hand up to the bedroom window from the upstairs balcony, tried to slide it open, and managed to do exactly that despite the fact that the window was, actually, locked from the inside.

I count myself very lucky that our landlord has expressed nothing but full support and a genuine desire to address these issues. I count myself very lucky that the young man tasked with being the on-site person here speaks excellent English. Yet I still feel a bit icky about it all. I hate feeling like we’re being a big hassle. I’m not particularly looking forward to the phone call telling me the handyman etc are on their way.

How did someone who is generally very accomplished and confident develop these strong instincts to avoid potential conflict? It’s been six years since the events in the chapter I am writing at the moment, and I’m still trying to figure this one out.

What about you? Conflict avoider, or conflict embracer?