Friday, January 09, 2009

A Bet?

The current acceptable term in many evangelical and charismatic Christian communities is "spiritual warfare."

Most of the people I know, however--including myself--have always said, "Oh! That's such a Jenn story!"

I never really considered that those two things might be the same thing, and maybe they're not, but yesterday I was whalloped again by what still more people might term my chronic bad luck. I was supposed to get to Starbucks by 5.00 a.m. to open the store for the day. I have a very long and steep driveway, so most of the winter, every winter, I park at the top of the driveway by the road, so I can get out and on my way with as little fuss as possible.

Yesterday quite a lot of fuss was possible. It took me over half an hour to get my car to move two feet. I threw a fairly extended temper tantrum in my car while moving was not happening. When I finally got to work and we opened the store (late), I tripped over a step-stool which I couldn't see because I was carrying a four-liter container of iced coffee, and went flying, landing on the stool and the cement-block floor such that I now have a bruise on each elbow and one knee. (I didn't spill the iced coffee, though.)

I was trying to imagine how to explain yet more ridiculous occurrences to the Milk Guy--you know, since I'm supposedly in touch with the Lord of the everything--and I imagined saying, "The elemental spirits of the universe don't like me because I love Jesus too much."

But that didn't sound quite right, because it makes it sound like my love for Jesus is all impressive and everything, and I'm pretty sure it's not--particularly as I had just spent a half hour that morning screaming at Him. (Sometimes I wonder how this relationship was worth it to Him.)

Then I started imagining that maybe Satan and God were having all these bets like they did with Job about how I would respond to certain difficulties. But I thought if that were true, it can't be all that gratifying to God in this case, since I go kind of ballistic every time the littlest thing happens to remind me that I'm not in control. I don't need to have big huge dramatic things happen (except cancer, evidently--but I mostly seem to be dealing with that just fine, I guess)--because I make them into huge dramatic things myself. And if these things are supposed to teach me to be more stoical or something, that doesn't seem to be working, either, and then maybe somebody in this dynamic is insane, because isn't the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results?

Anyway, I don't know what it is, but the upshot of this latest spate of excess of annoyance was that it made me start wondering about spiritual warfare, whether that's what has been going on lately or not. We talk about spiritual warfare as if it's personal, and I wonder if it really is? And if it is, then it's kind of incredible--it's almost an amazing praise of God and even a compliment to us, if you think about it. Because if it didn't matter how much Jesus loves us--and I mean us individually as well as corporately--and if it didn't matter how much we love Him . . . if that back-and-forth love wasn't going to make some difference in the world and the universe . . . well, then--I would think life would be a whole lot easier, and no one in any dimension would have to expend a whole lot of effort.

4 comments:

Scott R. Davis said...

THANKS FOR BEING HONEST ABOUT YOUR TEMPER TANTRUMS. I THROW THEM SOMETIMES WHEN I DON'T GET MY WAY. I HAD SOME DIFFICULTY THIS WEEK WITH HAVING TROUBLE FINDING BOOTS FOR MY FEET.
I THREW MY FIST AT THE HEAVENS AND TOLD GOD NOT TO BRING THE SNOW. AND YELLED AT MY COMPUTER.
NOTHING AS DRAMATIC THOUGH AS YOUR SAVE OF THE COFFEE AT HOME PLATE. BUT YOUR LIFE REFLECTS MINE IN SOME SMALL WAYS. THANKS FOR BEING HUMAN.

SCOTT

Jeff said...

What an insightful and strangely hilarious post. Thanks so much for your honesty.
Before I was a Christian I was manipulated into going to this Christian marriage retreat thingee with my wife.
I was waiting for her outside the bathrooms and feeling quite smug and superior to the whole affair.
Some dude greeted me, I greeted him back. He asked me how I was, I asked him how he was.
"Praise God! Satan tried to keep me up last night, so I wouldn't be able to retain anything today. But the Holy Spirit is with me, and I'm hearing it all even though Lucifer himself didn't want me to!"

I was so snarky on the ride home about this. Rather than focusing on the wisdom that was before me that day I'd prepared this great little monologue to share with my wife.
It was around the lines of "Wow, with genocide going on in Africa, with wars, death, greed, famine, robberies, gang violence, child abuse, elder abuse... you name it. In the middle of all this, the embodiement of evil, he has time to wake some dude up in the middle of the night and keep him awake so he can't focus on tips to improve his marriage! Satan's a pretty busy guy."

I've grown up a lot since then. I'd view the whole thing quite differently. Most of all, I hope, if it happened now, I'd be much more kind.
Some of my overall thought, though, I stand by. Sometimes we make things into issues of spiritual warfare because it makes us feel much more important (and much less to blame) for our challenges.

Jenn said...

Scott--I have a pretty hard time being anything else, actually.

Jeff--I'm glad you responded to this post in this way, because I was starting to wonder if maybe it just didn't make any sense. And yeah--I'm pretty sure the Milk Guy would have reacted in a similar way if we had had that conversation . . . which we didn't. It would be totally logical.

I think what I'm mulling over, though, is that, although I think the "spiritual warfare" label gets bandied about too readily in some circles (and you're right--it does give a nice out-clause for personal responsibility), I guess I think it IS personal sometimes, and, in a back-handed sort of way, it's pretty amazing. It just makes what Jesus has done even more incredible, I think.

Jeff said...

Yes, I agree. Evil is afraid of Christ in us. That's pretty amazing. We're such petty, silly little creatures. The idea that abiding in Jesus is an actually threat to to darkness, it's pretty amazing that these things become personal.

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