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The Absence of Conflict

Jul 28, 2022

A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone on the phone who had just admitted to an affair, resigned his position as youth pastor at his church, and is at the start of a very, very long journey. In the course of our conversation I said “I measured the success of my marriage by the absence of conflict, rather than the presence of intimacy.” If Trisha and I were able to get through a weekend without arguing-success. If I could go to an NBA game with some friends and not be made to feel guilty-success. If we spent an evening together at home and didn’t argue about finances, house chores, homework, overworking, extended family issues…then our marriage, in my mind, was healthy.

The success of my marriage was arranged around what we could avoid, rather than loving each other deeper, knowing each other better, sharing our dreams more, understanding our passions, growing more intimately with one another. We looked for the absence of conflict rather than pursing the presence of intimacy. The truth is that we settled for so much less than God longed for us to experience as husband and wife…it makes me sad to even think about it now.

I finished sharing this principle and learning with this guy and I felt like what I shared with him was helpful. I was thankful for the opportunity to be used by God in that way and I went to bed. The next morning I woke up to spend some time in prayer and Bible study before I started my day…and as I got out my journal, I felt like God said to me- “Justin, how you used to measure the success of your marriage is how you measure the depth of our relationship. You do the same thing with Me. You look for the absence of conflict, rather than the presence of intimacy with Me.”

The truth about me is that it is so easy for me to equate doing things FOR God with growing in my relationship WITH God. If life is going smooth, if my anxiety level is low, if my financial future is promising, if my family life is steady, if my stress level is under control…then my relationship with God must be growing in intimacy. If there is very little conflict and tension in my life, then that must mean that there is a presence of intimacy with God.

The reality is that I far too often settle for so much less than what God longs for me to experience with Him. I settle for counterfeit intimacy that I create through activity and service rather than authentic intimacy that is experienced through communion and conversation with a God who loves me.

Am I the only one on this? Anyone else measure their relationships by the absence of conflict rather than the presence of intimacy?