By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
I never imagined that we can grow through conflict, that we can discover greater intimacy through facing the conflicts in our lives. Many of us are conflict-phobic. Through taking a course with my doctoral advisor Dr Paddy Ducklow, I learned that conflict is not something to be avoided but rather to be celebrated. Many of us have learned from our families of origin to emotionally cut ourselves off whenever anxious situations emerge. But avoidance and emotional cutoff just make things worse.
It takes courage to face painful situations in our life, courage to listen, and courage to confront. Dr Ducklow modeled on this course a non-anxious presence that cared but did not get swallowed by people’s issues. It takes a lot of inner resilience to be able to stay present and calm when the storms of life blow in.
Jesus modeled this by how he acted on a Galilean boat during a storm. Rather than panic, he was totally relaxed and challenged his disciples to have more faith and inner peace. Then he spoke to the wind and storms, saying ‘Peace. Be still’. In the midst of our storms, Jesus is still saying ‘Peace. Be still.’
I first met Paddy Ducklow in 1972 during the Jesus Movement when millions of young people came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Paddy at that time was leading the youth ministry at West Vancouver Baptist Church which had between 800 to 1,000 young people attending their Sunday evening service Salt Circus. I remember attending Salt Circus. The place was electric. Paddy later founded the Burnaby Counselling Group before becoming the Senior Pastor of Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Wherever Paddy has gone, he has had a lasting impact on the lives of many, helping them to know greater intimacy and peace through Jesus Christ.
In more recent years, Paddy became the Senior Pastor of Capilano Christian Community on the North Shore, before stepping down to become the Professor of Marriage and Family at Carey Theological College on the UBC Campus. Over two years ago, I began to once again feel the call to do a part-time doctorate. E-mailing Paddy, I asked his advice as to where I might go to do my doctorate. Paddy responded, saying that he was being inducted at West Vancouver Baptist Church that very night Feb 26th 2009 as Carey Professor of Marriage and Family. I attended his induction, during which Paddy gave a hilarious talk on ‘Marriage for Dummies’. God spoke to me that evening, convincing me that I was to ‘step out of the boat’ and move forward on my doctorate. The exciting thing about the Carey Doctorate is that it is a part-time program designed specifically for full-time pastors.
In the past two and a half years, I have learned and grown in so many ways at Carey. Paddy’s own Doctoral Thesis was on how we process conflict. Paddy is passionate about conflict. I will be doing my Doctoral project on Strengthening Marriages, particularly looking at couple conflict and family systems theory. My vision is that many marriages will become more intimate, more life-giving as couples learn to embrace and celebrate the inevitable conflicts in their lives. I dream of couples who, instead of emotionally cutting off and running, choose to hang in there and learn how to really be present to each other in ways that do not take each out.
Marriages and families are worth fighting for. Marriages and families are building blocks of our very communities. It is so easy for us to take each other out and then give up on each other. My prayer for those reading this article is that we will find the strength to be ourselves, to embrace the gift of family and community, to forgive and reconcile at the deepest level.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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