The Matchbook Diaries

Love’s Hold versus Evil’s Hand

Several decades ago in a dream I summoned the devil.  The devil answered my summons, appearing at light speed.  I was stunned.  I sent the spirit away but during that same dream summoned the devil again, and a second time the same reply occurred.  I sent the spirit away a second time.  Still raging in my dream, I summoned the devil a third time. (I don’t recall what I hated in the dream and it doesn’t matter.)  At that point I woke myself up to make sure I didn’t keep doing the same thing.  If I, or anyone, call on evil, it will appear; it’s nothing special, you just have to be willing to trade your soul.

In My Upmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do.  We cannot save or sanctify ourselves – God does that.  But God will not give us good habits…and…will not force us to walk correctly.  We have to do all that ourselves….Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well…Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you and…never reconsider or change your initial decisions.  If you hesitate, you are being careless.”

I don’t have trouble jumping in; it plays to my strengths to be reckless.  I’ve taken shocking sharp turns countless times.  Usually I’m sure if God speaks or if something else is talking to me, but in times of tremendous duress, I pause.  If I hear that crystal clear, simple voice, I move ahead, but if I deliberately hesitate and I hear nothing, then I leave that action to the side, though my mind and heart routinely return to it, sniffing around, perplexed, “Am I meant to act on this?….”  In those moments I must not act.  Under excessive pressure I’m as likely to flee as I am to counterattack before I’ve had time to acknowledge alternative solutions.  One of evil’s great tricks is to squeeze a problem into two extreme choices, both of which are perversely gratifying and neither of which are good for me.

When I am angry or afraid, I want rescue or vengeance.  The comforting or gratifying hand that shoots out of the darkness, however, is no friend of mine.  It is almost certainly evil.  Evil frequently offers “help” which is actually just slavery.  The devil is impotent; without our compliance, the devil has no power.  The surest sign of God’s omnipotence is God’s surrender of it.  The devil promises what it can momentarily deliver, but what it neither intends, nor can, permanently deliver.  God could compel us, but won’t, the devil can’t, but will try every possible way to “force” us.  Almost all intensely comforting gestures of assistance and retribution, from personal to corporate are evil and all of them are powerless.

Almost never am I facing an utterly intractable problem.  I can run from, or wage war with, the problem.  I can do that.  But I won’t fix the core issue that way.  The means for my security are internal, not external.  It’s is almost never money, physical surroundings, or specific people who are impossible to fix.  It is almost always some problem in my own heart I refuse to acknowledge and from such a thing only I can save myself by God’s mercy.  Of one thing, though, I can be certain: God isn’t going to swoop in and save me from myself.  God says, Fix it.  I certainly can.  The question is, will I?

Beware of any person, any radical solution, any belief, any organization that purports to be your shelter, your best friend.  (In Wall-e, the post apocalyptic cartoon movie, the supreme ruler in the form of a big box store asserts, Buy N Large is Your VERY best friend!)  God will never be your best friend, but the devil would love the role.  God is in the business of distributing power, not of showcasing it.  When something is quick to assert how strong and safe it is, be wary.  The devil is in the business of possession, of exerting ownership because of the devil owns none of us, is master of no one, and rules nothing.  The devil makes promises (and threats); God doesn’t do either.  God speaks without emphasis because God is God; no italics are needed (one of the side bennies of omnipotence).  The devil says, so reassuringly, Trust me.  God doesn’t say such silly things.

Good always has a name and evil never does.   Evil is next to nothing, and, in the end, will be nothing – whatever you ask about evil is a waste of time.  (How many times have you uselessly asked “Why?” when someone hurts you?)   Good gets more and more refined and exquisite the closer you look.

Will that powerful or comforting new place, new lover, new job, new money, will that be the “promised land”?  Nope.  We are not meant to expect nor are we reasonable to demand permanence and security.  We are designed to be incredibly agile, adept, exquisitely able to navigate the most staggeringly complex situations with beautiful grace that showcases our own talent and the love of God for us.

God makes God’s dwelling in my heart, and it is in my heart that I shelter in place.  In my heart is sanctuary and security in the arms of God.  Externally I might be trembling with fear and standing all alone while a community accuses me of being crazy, but in my heart is the authentic connection that humbly but intractably insists that I am OK.  I’m not strong, but God is, and therefore I am OK.  I am never alone, and neither is anyone else.  There is no place I can go to be safe or unsafe; I am safe, I am a child of God, as are you.

I wanted my version of justice in my dream so I summoned evil.  I want to respond forcefully to things that threaten me, but alas, this reply is poison.   Evil is not inherent in me; it must be summoned.  Evil cannot impose; it has to be invited.  If I (or anyone) summon evil, savory revenge will be given, and for that delight the price is doom.

I need love, not justice.  I don’t summon God. God is not apart from me.  If I choose hell, even there God lives in me, suffering alongside of me until such time as my life is tragically eradicated.

Justice we will all have and by the hand of God.  I will be answerable for all I’ve done and I certainly hope that when that day comes, mercy will too.  The devil’s revenge is not justice but war, the devil’s safety is not peace but torment.

The errors that lead to tricky situations begin with either a lust for revenge, which is my normal disposition, or, just as common, a fearful, impulsive dart to “safety”.  Safety and strength are not external, not a places to go.  In these moments the reply is to shelter in place with God in your heart.

In the devil’s fortresses of rage and fear are slaves cowering before the masters who promised vengeance or a life of comfort.  No one but God can make “promises” and God never will.  God created justice when God created grace.

By the grace of God it is possible to step out of vengeance and terror.  Stand quite still in your hour of hate and fear.  Stand still.  Reach for nothing, reach not for a person or a drink or a dollar or a book or a scheme.  Stand still until you have calmed down enough to hear your own heart speaking, murmuring to you, “You are OK.  You are perfect.  You are beloved.  You are important.  You are unique in all the world.  You have inside of you everything you will ever need to be at peace, to be happy in all circumstances because you are host to the Lover of your Soul, God.”