Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Real Enemy (spoiler: it's not whichever human or establishment you just thought of)

I originally wrote this post as a guest blogger for Create In Us Ministries in May of 2016.  If you're reading my blog for the first time, welcome.  Stay a while.  I don't write often but I write from the heart, always.  I also write like I talk so if you don't know me in real life, bless your heart- hang in there.  You're loved. If you get nothing else from anything I write, get that:  you're loved. 
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I'm a middle school teacher, so it should come as no surprise to you that I love middle school things.  The Biebs, Pretty Little Liars- they're my jam.  (I can feel you judging- really it's fine.  I've accepted that I'm a nerd.)  Also on my list of middle school madness:  The Hunger Games series.

If you're not familiar with The Hunger Games series, I'll give you time to google a synopsis.  (Go for it.  I'll be here all night ;-) ).  In the second book and film, Catching Fire, there's a point towards the end where Katniss (our heroine) has been separated from her love interest, Peeta, and it seems that her allies have turned against her.  This is a fight to the death, so the situation is fairly dire.  She hears Finnick, one of her allies (maybe?) shouting her name, and she gets a clear shot of him through some brush.  Katniss is an excellent archer; she has her bow pulled and her arrow ready to take flight.  Just then, she and Finnick make eye contact, and he says ever so clearly, "Katniss, remember who the real enemy is."

It was around Christmas time and I sat crying in the front seat of my husband's car because the holidays can be difficult for me as a 20-something, recovering pleaser, who is still newly married.  How in the world were we going to be in 38374 places at once?  And we can sing all that "all I want for Christmas is you", a la Mariah Carey, but what we were really singing in our hearts was "all I want for Christmas is you and for you to go along with all of my family's traditions because I want those for Christmas too".  And while we sat in silence waiting (hoping?) for the other to be the first to offer compromise, I heard that precious whisper in my heart, not from a fictional character, but from the Lover of my soul:  "Remember who the real enemy is."  Hint:  his name is not Garrett Cook.  Nor families who wanted us to be in 38374 places at once.  Or anyone else I've met in the flesh.

See, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)  In the words of Priscilla Shirer in her book Fervent (stop reading this blog and go read her stuff immediately), "The real enemy isn't your husband.  Or your teenager.  Or your brother's wife.  Or your mother-in-law.  Or the weather.  Or your sweet tooth.  Or whatever powder keg of frustration really gets under your skin and sets you off before you can think straight."
We have an enemy, and he's real, and he's strong.  But Jesus is stronger.  When we belong to Him, the enemy has lost us for all eternity, but that gives him all the more reason to mess with our here and now.

In the interest of being transparent, my heart has been bruised this week.  And for the first time in quite a while, I've found myself having to really fight for a soft heart.  To deliberately choose to show up and choose grace for myself and others.  To choose love over anger.  To consciously decide to remember who the real enemy is.  Jesus is the only one Who is perfectly faithful, and He is asking me to make these choices.

And so I do.  I make these choices sometimes through tears, which Jesus lovingly collects (Psalm 56:8).  I make these choices because when Jesus asks me to do something, I trust that His purpose is good and His heart is for me.  He loves me and He proves that love over and over; obedience is how I show I love Him back.

This week, when conflict erupts in big ways or small ways, when things get janky (janky:  a middle school term for busted and jacked up) and have to be made right, when you've been hurt or you're the one who has done the hurting (we've all been on both sides, by the way)- remember who the real enemy is.  And if he's working this hard, what amazing things is he trying to keep us from?  I can't wait to find out.