The devil used to be sneaky… now he’s just obvious.
What I mean is, he used to tempt or discourage me in ways that I thought were just a result of me being a flawed person. How many times has he tempted someone with “one more drink” or “it’s just a little lie” or even “no one has to know.” The truth is we ALWAYS know! I have made some great decisions in my life… and some equally stupid ones.
I remember once as a high school freshman, I used to ride home with my neighbor that was a junior. One day two of her friends were with us and got the bright idea to ride on the hood of the car. While I made the “smart” decision of staying buckled inside, I did in fact encourage their adventure and once aboard, even made it a bit of a water ride for them by spraying wiper fluid on their backsides. It was so much fun and we laughed and laughed until we rode past some friend’s of ours from church and saw my dad’s car sitting out front. Not only was it sitting out front, but both my mom and dad were outside and saw the little blue car go spraying by. It was not a good outcome for me when they got home. I wasn’t punished, but the long “do you have any idea what could’ve happened” conversation seemed to droll on for hours. Fortunately, my redemption was found in the fact that, while I was enjoying the ride, I was in fact not one of the girls on top the car!
When satan comes along to tempt or distract us, how often do we stop and ask ourselves “do you have any idea what could’ve happened” before responding. Often we react before we ask ourselves what the best route to take is, much less consulting with our “cloud of witnesses” or our God who’s perfect plan is actually now waiting on our next move. Life or death. Joy or despair. Often times the circumstances in our life are no more in our control than when the sun rises or sets, but our reaction to them always is.
Recently I have made some difficult decisions and changes in my life to pursue more what I believe God is calling me to with regards to my purpose in life. Change often produces growing pains and boy have I had my share of them… too many to mention in this blog.
But not long ago I was really hurt by something a “church person” did. Now before you go questioning the who and what details, let me ease your mind that it wasn’t a minister, staff member or anyone even related to them. It was a “plain ole church person.” (as if that isn’t an oxy moron… I don’t know if I have ever met a plain church person! More often than not, they’re some of the strangest people I’ve known, which is ok because I never claimed to be normal and would never want to insult someone with that label either.) But the plain ole part really comes from the place that I honestly don’t believe I have ever actually met this person.
The short of it is, I believe, that satan got mad. He saw some incredible things happening in my life through worship, music and even in the lives of my high school friends and had to find a way to put an end to it. So, he used the threat of hurting some of the most important people in my life to distract me from my own growth. I am not even sure that he actually did any permanent damage, but the seed of possibility was planted in my mind and for a creative person who tends to always flash-forward with the best and worst of each possibility, that was such an obvious way to make me freeze and retreat.
More than being hurt, and in another chapter I will reveal some of the most crazy and harmful “church experiences” I have had and know about that will blow your mind, but even as I want to protect myself from being hurt or experiencing any more pain in my walk of faith, I in no way wish to ever do harm to another. In fact the only ones I would ever get fired up about hurting, would be someone who was attempting to inflict pain on anyone in my own family, or a brother or sister in the body… then it’s “GAME ON!”
Needless to say, this even rocked my core. It was “so small” and will probably never even be known by more than 3 or 4 people but it unlocked years of doubt and fears that honestly made me not ever want to step foot inside of a church again. (Please don’t misunderstand, I am NOT bashing “church people.” My best friends are “church people” and I am a “church person” but what I am calling attention to is how we are blinded by the seemingly “small” ways satan gets a foothold into our lives and then into our church.
What better strategy!? If he can make me doubt or insecure about the Sunday morning smiles I encounter, assuring me they’re all fake and have ulterior motives, then I show up with walls and skepticism and anything but an open heart ready to receive the word God would speak to me. And if he can do that with me, he can do that with you. He can do that with any family.
So, if he can make me doubt, and you doubt and someone on every row show up with pre-conceived notions about how un-authentic or judgemental everyone else is, NO WONDER there is stereotypically so much pain caused within the walls of the church building. But it’s not really who they (we) are! It’s the version of each person that has allowed satan more power than God, at least in that moment, that shows up reeking havoc.
What if every Sunday every person came, checked their insecurities, fears and assumptions at the door and picked up new ones. The idea that they are there to fellowship and love one another and that every single person in that room did indeed have their best interest in mind as well.
Do you think it would change the way we worship? How about the way we speak to each other? Would we rejoice when someone found healing rather than doubting it’s authenticity? Would we welcome the hurting with open arms, or tell them our table is full because their jeans and sweatshirt doesn’t fit in with our finely pressed linen?
When someone told us no, or not now, would respect the boundaries they set for their family as following God’s leading, or assume that they’re a snob that just doesn’t want to be around us? At the same time, would we be more sensitive to when we appear to be a snob and perhaps communicate better, realizing that we are all in this together.
The fact is, if our men, women, boys and girls don’t find love and acceptance with us “church folks” they’re going to look for it elsewhere. I would much rather welcome someone with open arms and explain that I don’t have all the answers, but that my family and I would love to be on the journey with them and that they belong. I would much prefer giving hope and pouring out love and assuring them of their value than having them feel like a worthless castaway looking for someone to just care.
So back to me… I was hurt and actually thought, you know, maybe church just isn’t for me. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of places single parents fit in. Young single friends don’t understand the inability to have infinite spontaneity. Married friends without kids don’t understand the responsibility of molding a shaping a little life and the married ones with kids tend to be uncomfortable when there’s not “another spouse” involved. (Don’t even get met started about the jealous wives at the baseball field that think I’m obviously try to take their husbands away from them, or that I’m somehow gay because I’m athletic. Sheesh! Honestly I worked hard with my dad and tons of coaches to get softball to pay for college and I want my son to have the best instruction possible. And, I’m as straight as they come, but trust me, I don’t like leftovers and do not remotely want to steal your “prize” I have one of my own reserved just for me on his way!)
So satan flooded my mind with doubts and what ifs to the point I was ready to head for the hills and not return… and actually started to make that departure. THEN IT HIT ME… Wait a minute!… satan used to be sneaky, but this is so OBVIOUS! He is trying to stop a good thing and he knows just what my mind needs to fear to do so. He knows who I care most about and that the threat of hurting them would cause me to bail. He knows that I’m a single parent and the idea of not “fitting in” when loud enough can cause me to close up shop. But when did we decide he even HAD a say in all this?!
My journey to be the best woman, mom and eventually wife that God has planned for me to be, CANNOT be determined or detoured by satan’s attempts at turning absurdities into catastrophes.
He does not win this one!
The scripture in James 1 comes to mind: “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to “lack” anything necessary to realize my full potential in Him.
So what I’ve got to do is recognize these little big pains as opportunities for victory. My life and my son’s life are way too important to let one person or even a thousand people try to halt the great things God has planned. It’s not easy, but I believe I’m going to win this most recent round!
I just wish we could all, always, see these things for what they are, well scripted plans that satan is using because he knows what would cause the most dissension within ourselves and with the body.
Be on the look out! Satan is rarely sneaky and often times obvious in how he tries to bring us down and he doesn’t deserve the power OR say because our future is not in or for him!
IN CLOSING, as our pastor and teachers would say:
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.