Sometimes the attacks are subtle. Sometimes they hit you in the face with such force that it takes weeks to find your footing. There are attacks we never recognize, never call it for what it is. And then there are attacks that are so obvious no one could mistake the enemy’s work. I have experienced both in the last week. I am still reeling in many ways, but these words that you are reading right now are the evidence of the fight still in me.
Last week, my littlest got sick. It started with the familiar cough that accompanies the early spring West Texas wind. I can handle that. Then he had a fever. Ok. We got this. But, by the middle of the night on Friday he was screaming that his ears hurt. Those midnight hours found me making garlic oil and juicing onions. I was heating warm compresses and scrambling to find relief for him. By morning he was resting, but my other 3 children were awake and shockingly still expected a mother to care for them regardless of her lack of sleep. Thinking we were in the clear, I finally laid my head down on the pillow Saturday night only to be awaken moments later by the painful cry of my little guy again. All of the mommas out there know that it ALWAYS happens on the weekend and is ALWAYS the worst in the middle of the night!!! So, I lay on the end of his twin bed and counted down the hours until I could take him into the urgent care on Sunday morning. In the end we got some amoxicillin for his ears and I somehow kept the rest of my little crew alive on no sleep.
Somewhere in the fog of these days, my 6 year old began limping around our home. First it was behind the knee, which we quickly attributed to growing pains and sent her to soccer practice. Then it was her leg, her foot, her arms, her neck. Finally, one night she was screaming from her bed, hurting so badly she couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom. Now this kid is a force of nature…. She is my most independent, strong-willed, fierce little warrior.
So, seeing her in all of this mysterious pain really began to scare the hubby and me. Thank goodness it was actually on a Monday (yes, the Monday following the Sunday in the urgent care) so I made the doctor’s appointment for the next day and spent way too many hours googling possible causes for these symptoms. We all know never to do this, and yet we always succumb to this torture, do we not? By the time we left for the appointment the next morning, I was so scared I could barely breathe. The poor doctor pushed and pulled on all of her limbs, poked at her tummy, looked in her ears and down her throat and said, “I think she has a strained muscle in her thigh. Did she fall or something?” At this point, my toothless princess tells both the doctor and me in great detail how she and her best friend Addi were giving each other “piggy- back rides” in the gym. “the other day.” (Amazingly, the same day the limping began.). Addi had crumpled under the weight of my girl and she had fallen onto the hard gym floor. “Remember,” she says to me, “I told you I went to the nurse because I bit my tongue?” Yes, I think I vaguely remember that in the middle of the little guy’s hacking and fevers. She had evidently jarred her body hard enough to make her sore all over. The doctor looked at me a little like I was crazy, and maybe even incompetent and prescribed MOTRIN y’all! I think I mumbled something about earaches and no sleep as I assisted my gimpy daughter back to the car.
Neither of these events rocked my world. I am certainly tougher than that. But do you know what they did? They sucked the energy completely out of me. They seriously challenged my “no complaining for Lent.” They made me so exhausted that I began to question this new little step of obedience. “You can’t write,” I began to think, “You can’t even think. How can you encourage others when an earache and a sore muscle can knock you so low? You can’t speak into lives for the glory of God. You can’t do Kingdom work here. You can barely get some corndogs on the table. All you can handle right now is the laundry and keeping your kids well. You are even failing at that.” And then I listened a little more closely to that voice and I realized it was not my own. Those little whispers that were daggers to my confidence did not belong to me. It was the lies of the enemy and I was so mad I hadn’t recognized it sooner! 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I was sitting in a pool of my own devoured courage and purpose and hadn’t even noticed the attack. Now, I do not look for a demon under every rock or inside of every infected ear. We live in a world where kids get sick and fall down. We live in a world where piggy-back rides gone amiss are the least of perils. I know. But we also live in a world in which the enemy, Satan is his name, can twist even the most mundane aches and pains into arrows aimed at our purpose. If he can get us so distracted by the immediate needs and failures of the day, we lose the ability to look up at our great calling. Satan hates it when we find our voice. He hates it when we use our gifts. He hates it when we get our of the ruts of our own self-centeredness and begin to encourage our sisters in their race.
John 10:10 tells us that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus isn’t the only one who has a plan for you. The enemy is real and he has a goal for our lives as well. He wants to steal the dream your Heavenly Father has placed in your heart. He wants to kill your calling and destiny. He wants to destroy your effectiveness for the kingdom. He will go after your kids, your marriage, your sleep, your confidence, your tribe. We know from Ephesians 6:12 that, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Sometimes all he needs is an iPhone to keep you distracted, an ear infection to keep you exhausted, or a fall on the gym floor to keep you afraid. I hate it when I realized I was such easy prey. You see, I am a warrior. You are too. We are called to fight these battles. We are called to never forget that there are powers at work and the unseen is more real than this veil we are so invested in.
After my days of being an easy target, the enemy launched an attack that I really have no theology for. It was not on me personally but on our community, on my faith family. It was a tragedy of unspeakable devastation. Honestly, in the wake of it we are still walking around waiting for someone to say something that makes any kind of sense. It seems that the enemy has had a huge win… Lives of mighty champions snuffed out too soon, too senselessly. There is a battle and it is real. So what can this army do but honor our lost, regroup, and draw our swords? There is no neutral ground. Will we be victims or heroes? Will we dress for the fight of our lives, of our generation, or will we turn tail and run. Or worse, ignore it all together and forfit victory? Not me. Not my family. Not my tribe. We may not have all the answers. We may never know all the why’s this side of heaven but we can suit up and prepare for war. Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Whether his shemes are sore muscles or tragedy we must stand. Draw your swords, sisters. I will as well and in the end we know that the final battle has already been won on the cross. Let that assurance give you all the confidence you need to war well.