THE ABIDING LIFE
Battling the Wrong Enemy
By Gwen Sellers
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For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)How many times have you heard that verse? Have you ever really thought about what it means for your daily life?
I have been thinking about Ephesians 6:12 in a new light recently. Several months ago a classmate reminded me that our lives are not unopposed. The Enemy does not like to see Christians living well. I've come to realize that this spiritual opposition is much sneakier than I previously suspected.
It seems a common theme in Christian spiritual growth books, at least those aimed at women, is combatting the lies we have come to believe about ourselves and God. Caricatures of the "good Christian girl," "super mom," or the oft dreaded Proverbs 31 "wonder woman" are things with which many Christian women are familiar. We sometimes even giggle at who we've come to believe we are supposed to be. We also look at what society tells us about beauty — model thin, airbrushed, sexy, and all achieved with ease. Or perhaps we reject that image of beauty and go with strong and capable. Or maybe it is less about appearance and more about success — breaking through the glass ceiling, or having a job you can't wait to get to, or being needed and relied upon at work or at home, or making a lot of money, or maintaining a magazine-cover-worthy home, or being an excellent cook or a crafter extraordinaire, or being a "cool mom," etc. The images of success and having it all are not lacking. It seems everywhere we look there is some ideal for which to strive, some measure of what acceptability would look like. Quite rightly, these spiritual growth books are calling women to pay attention to their thought patterns. What messages were communicated in your past? What messages are you currently receiving? Do these line up with the truth of God's word? Do they reflect the heart of God? Do they reflect who He made you to be? The idea is to recognize the lies, reject what isn't of God, forgive as needed, and begin to live in the truth. As a counselor, I am all for this. Our past affects our present. The messages we receive from others in our present affects our outlook on life. We need to be aware of what is motivating us and toss it if it isn't true. We need to forgive those who have hurt us or whom we feel have misled us. Resentment is not biblically acceptable or psychologically healthy. Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). We need to be aware of the truth claims sent our way and make sure we live in actual Truth.
However, I wonder if we sometimes get the source of our faulty thinking wrong. At least I know I have. It is easy to feel ire at "society" or even "the church" for communicating these unrealistic standards I could not achieve. I would like to blame them for making me feel bad about myself. But, really, they aren't the problem. Yes, society, media, parents, teachers, the church, and myriad others have perpetuated lies or unachievable standards of acceptability. And often we need to forgive these people or entities in order to move forward. But I realize they did not do it out of malice or with bad intention. Society is made up of people like me. The church is made up of people like me. I might be a parent one day. I have perpetuated the same liesóboth by buying into them and by speaking them. I have held other people to unachievable standards. I have been a person others may need to forgive. I want to feel betrayed and angry, to be excused for my part in the whole thing by blaming the "others" who deluded me in the first place. But that is unfair. For the most part, people aren't out to get each other. There is not some conspiracy "out there" wanting me to have a warped perspective on beauty or success. We're all struggling to succeed, to be enough, to be acceptable. So we tell each other what we think works. Or we come up with some sort of standard that can make us feel better about ourselves.
Continued on Page Two
Image Credit: Sodanie Chea; "I feel ___"; Creative Commons
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Published on 7-11-2014