It’s been a rough few months with my daughter, as she’s navigating the delicate social mores of first grade and slowly accepting the responsibilities that come with being seven years old. She is still delightful, but as she is changing my husband and I often feel like we’re tiptoeing around her to avoid upsetting her somehow. (This rarely works, by the way.)
It’s gotten old, if I’m honest, and more than once
a day I’ve snarled at her once she turned her back…gouging my fingernails into my fisted palms as I do my best to withhold my frustration with her. At that moment, my thoughts/prayers usually sound something like this:
“She’s making me crazy! Why is she being so difficult?! Why is she doing this to me?“
Then I take a deep breath and do my best to keep my cool as we resolve whatever tense situation we’re in at that moment.
But the other night, as I waited
and waited and waited for her to finish brushing her teeth and I felt my anger rising in my chest, I felt God whisper to my weary heart, “Jess, she is not the enemy here.”
I was startled. Had I actually been thinking of my sweet girl as my enemy? As though I – a fully-grown adult woman – were in an actual war with a child? The more I thought about it, I realized I had…and God had just put me in my place. However frustrating she is acting…however angry I may feel…however certain I am that she is purposefully instigating conflict after conflict just to get me to make my crazy angry face…..she is not the enemy.
And friend? Neither is your child. Or your husband. Or that neighbor who doesn’t bend at all on matters of neighborhood peace. Or that coworker who mysteriously vanishes and makes everyone else pick up the slack. Or the slow-moving lady in the grocery store. Or the fellow mother at your child’s school who always has something snide to say about how your child is dressed.
They are not the enemy.
Those things happen because the people in front of you are broken. And your reaction? It happens because you are broken, too. We’re all broken because once upon a time, we didn’t recognize our enemy for who he was. The bad news is that that same enemy is still here, and he’s still up to the same old tricks.
We have an enemy, yes, that tempted and teased in the Garden until we settled for brokenness. We have an enemy that deceived us into choosing something less than what God created us to live. We have an enemy who led us down a path that took us out of the Garden forever and into a world fraught with pain, anger, disease, and destruction. That enemy is real, yes, but that enemy is not standing in front of you in flesh and blood, looking you in the eye and standing off with you in the grocery aisle or the school hallway. That enemy doesn’t leave their shoes in the middle of the floor or argue about homework or fuss because they can’t have their favorite supper every night. That enemy isn’t the one who seems preoccupied and doesn’t seem interested in your needs and never helps around the house. That enemy doesn’t even show up on your television screen during the nightly news or during those comical political debates. No, our enemy is much more sneaky than that.
He is much more sneaky than we know.
Our enemy is invisible, but he wears many disguises. He is disguised in the bitter words of a friend that threaten to tear the relationship apart, and in our equally bitter thoughts about the person who said them. He is covered by the remembrance of old boyfriends that make us wonder if we married the right person, and in the wandering eyes and discontented heart that grows inside us. He is camouflaged in the disobedience of our children, and in the explosive anger that results. (Not that I know anything at all about that. Ahem.)
Yes, we have an enemy, but he is not your children. He is not your husband. He is not your neighbor or coworker or the person in the car next to you. He is a stealthy lion, sneaking about looking for anything and everything born of Light that he can steal, kill, and destroy.
He wants to steal the good that God has placed in your life.
He wants to kill anything with the glow of abundant life.
He wants to destroy anything that falls in line with what life was created to be.
So friends, the next time you begin to look at the people in your lives as enemies to be feared and fought, turn your anger and aggression to the one who is really at work. He is stealthily moving, staying behind the scenes and keeping at the work he began so long ago. So, yes! Fight…..but only if you’re fighting the real enemy. He is sneaky and he is real, but he is not the flesh-and-blood child of God standing in front of you.