If you are anything like me, and raised in a Southern Baptist church I know you will understand my confusion, but for those of you whose faith was not so brutal let me explain. In my sermons growing up, faith was not just a pretty painting we hung on the kitchen wall, it was a brutal warfare. Christianity was not something to be taken lightly, and like heroin something you must never turn your back on, not even for a moment, because, we were led to believe, that is when Satan will consume your soul. The fire and brimstone will take over the light, and you will burn in an eternal Hell. Everything becomes Satan, and the guilt takes over. You’ve heard of Catholic Guilt, this is Baptist Guilt.
If my mind begins to wander during a sermon towards the prayer notes from the night before, in my mind, that becomes the work of Satan. If while I’m out a friend makes crude comments, they are possessed by the demons of Satan. If my toddler starts crying during my prayer, she becomes the spawn of…wait no…well you get the picture.
I often wonder if I can hear God over Satan…in fact every voice in my head has become that of Satan’s. It becomes an obsession, a sick unhealthy, uncontrollable guilt that truly blocks my heart, more so than protects me from the darkness. But what if I’ve misunderstood, I mean who am I to comprehend? Even now as I write this script a red bar spans across my screen saving of draft failed; was that you Satan? You have to find the tinge of humor to the schizophrenic guilt has led you to become.
This Summer my small group in church is reading “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. At first I am hesitant to dive into any christian self-improvement book, just another portal of Satan shaming. At the beginning of the book, the author tells a tale about his daughter’s contact becoming lost in a pile of leaves. She is quite devastated and they decide to pray about it. He then goes on to explain that as a result of the prayer they find the contact. The cynicism from years of believing the pointlessness of prayer, my “thine will be done” attitude, led me to roll my eyes at this story, but I had made a commitment and decided to attempt and power on through the first three chapters.
But as I start the next passage, baby K awakes from her nap and begins to wail, there you are Old Scratch, I was beginning worry about you. I place down my book to pull her out, and change her diaper. I bring her into the play room and snuggle into my chair in the corner while she plays. Just as I fall back into my cyclical reading, she cries again, she wants food no doubt. I grab a Raspberry and Brown Rice squeeze pack, toss it at her, and return to my corner.
I decide to follow in stride with my readings and pray, I pray for God to speak to me. I’m starting to really get into the groove of things and begin to devour this idea of coming to God like a child, to drop the formalities and just create that connection of love. Just then an aroma wafts into my nostrils breaking my divine consciousness. I power on, the Devil will not distract me now.
The same is true for learning how to love…you never stop learning…there is far too much depth in people to be able to capture love easily.
As my eyes soak in these lines the words begin to blur from the tears caused by that pungent smell that makes me want to gag. I roll my eyes at the devil. I look at my daughter, not even having found her footing in this life and say out loud in frustration, “well let’s change your diaper.” At that moment my daughter, not even having gained her footing in this world hears my words, drops all of her toys and makes her way across the floor on hands and knees towards her room. She understands me, my daughter who doesn’t speak my language is learning each day new forms of communication with me, her mother. It was not Satan all along, but God distracting me. I prayed for his communication, and he served me my slice of humble pie, answering it as plainly as he did for Mr. Miller and his daughter. I must open myself to expand my communication with my father, I must continue to mature, to know his voice and start to see Him in everything, not Satan.
Since I am his child, change is possible and hope is born.
How often have you mistakingly allowed Satan to soak in the spotlight and steal the crown? It’s time to redirect your focus from the power of spiritual warfare, and onto the power of love, His love.