The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
I’m trying to make sense of something. It’s like reaching into a nasty old koi pond and trying to pull out a fish. It’s all too murky and stirred up to see anything. And when I touch something it’s slippery and slimy, and almost certainly smelly. When I am able to get a grip on something I’m not sure I want to pull it into the light.
Human beings generally believe in God, or at least a god (goddess). Christians believe in a personal God, one who cares and loves and suffers and sacrifices for His creation. We also believe in Satan. Maybe not a comic character who dances about on our shoulders, but perhaps some vague force opposing God. We might see it as some sort of Star Wars thing with two sides of the force battling across time and space. But since we aren’t Jedi knights we don’t worry about it too much.
We don’t want to live in a world where evil is personified. We don’t mind that sometimes things are bad, and sometimes there are bad people. And we don’t mind sometimes acknowledging that we are naughty. But we don’t want to think that under the veneer of beauty the world is manipulated by some evil force who seeks us harm. Personally seeks us harm. We don’t want to be some pawn on a spiritual chess board.
Reluctantly I can see that there are dark forces in the world, sliding just beneath the reality we know. They move about unseen, like oily things gliding beneath the surface. Occasionally they create ripples in my world.
I written before about those whispers in the dark. Could there be something creeping about the edge of the light of my home? Might there be shadows within my home, places where the light of my LORD does not shine?
My eldest son felt compelled to play with fire. He burned much of our church down. He says he heard voices telling him to do it. For weeks. What does that mean? The psychologist says he isn’t schizophrenic. Could there be something evil lurking about my son, whispering to him, tempting him?
I know that my children have come from a place where darkness rules openly. But in the land of iPods and Big Macs getting a grip on cruelty and voodoo rituals doesn't come easy. What dark things might be lurking near my home because of the evil visited upon my children? Someone took a baseball bat to Jeremiah’s feet, crushing them. There are dents in his head. When he first came to us he didn’t believe we would let him have his own bowl of rice to eat. Isaac has scars all over his face. Someone had ritually burnt him to ward of werewolves. I've heard worse stories from the woman who rescued my children. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I want to figure it out.
So I’m “boning up” on the dark side of the force. That sounds a little flippant, but that’s my point. I prefer to think of evil as a dark figure with a cape who is into heavy mechanical breathing and sounds like James Earl Jones. But I think that usually evil does not grab our throats with an invisible grip. Usually it just whispers to us the things we want to hear, the things we desire, the self doubts, and what our rights are. It hints that our conscience doesn't matter. And the biggest lie he whispers is that he doesn't exist. I’ve gotten used to not thinking about the evil side of my theology. Which is just the way he wants it.
Now I’m reading books on spiritual warfare, and generational curses, and demon possession. Not a comfortable topic. I don't like it.
There was something in a book I was reading yesterday. It was a chapter on evil objects. It suggests that there are things in our lives that attract evil, push away what is good. I wondered if there was anything in my home that I needed to remove. There isn’t any pornography, or drugs, or voodoo dolls. Then I remembered. On the top shelf of my bedroom, in the corner, are some books and mementos.
When I was eighteen I wanted to learn about world religions. I took a stack of books and went off where there weren’t any people and read them. I have some of them still. And there are books from when I was a monk in a yogic ashram. But books can’t be bad. They are just information, and I love learning things. And oh, yes, there’s that little wooden box. It has a picture of Sri Ramakrishna, a stone from India, a few Rudraksha beads, and a candle from a hindu temple. So it’s not like I have any porn or any... Wait a minute. Those things? He wants me to get rid of that stuff?
Yeah, that stuff. And not just that stuff. I need to sift through my home and really take a look at what is in it. I am my LORD’s servant and everything I have belongs to Him. And frankly, there’s a lot of stuff He doesn’t want.
My dad has a few bucks. He lives in Southern California and is very successful. (If you can call divorcing his fifth wife, giving away one of his houses, and spending most nights with his former maid successful.)
He takes pride in throwing stuff away. I don’t give him things anymore because when he tires of something he throws it away. He takes pride in paying extra for garbage service. He hauls five or six cans of trash to the curb every week and it is often filled with stuff that people give him. After a birthday it might hit six trash cans and seven large plastic bags. After Christmas... well let’s just say it is astonishing.
But I think Jesus would just as soon haul five or six cans of the stuff I have given Him to the curb.
I thought that those books and mementos are just that, mementos. But why do I have them? I’m not going to read them again. I know all that I want to know about that stuff (actually, more).
So, out with The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Out with The Autobiography of a Yogi. I don’t need to read Patangali or The Baghavad Gita or Surathji. I certainly don’t need the beads or the candles. There's even a fragment from a Mayan temple my father-in-law gave me. That stuff is dead, and it is nearly forgotten.
Nearly, but not quite.
That is how he works. He whispers in my ear: “That’s not important. That doesn’t mean anything.” And so I let it sit on the shelf.
There are a lot of things I know I need to do with and for my kids. And I am working on it. I'm reading the gospels out loud to them, to be sure they hear the good word about the Living Word. There's the reading I have taken on. I’ll finish up those books. I'll go to that seminar this Friday on spiritual warfare, and I’ll enlist friends in helping me through prayer. But there are a lot of things that I can do to clean up my own act.
I don’t need any Schwarzenegger movies, or horror movies or any of that stuff. I don’t need any books on mysticism or mythology. And I don’t need mementos of a life that is dead to me.
Hang on a second, LORD. Let me help you haul those cans to the curb.
UPDATE (Tuesday 10/8/05):
My first thought was to burn that stuff. Seemed a little dramatic, and I thought, why not just let it rot in the landfill forever? So I wrapped it all in a paper sack to make sure it didn't fall out, and put it in the trash.
Well, the can didn't get picked up today! Strange. First time for everything. So it is still at my house, outside, in the trash can. I'm tempted to dig it out and do something more permanent with it.
I've got to say this whole thing is giving me the creeps. I don't like dealing with this sort of thing. But I can't deny it since scripture is very clear here.
Thank you, all of you, who are saying that you are praying for me and my family.