Standing My Ground :: A Confession

Tuesday, May 20, 2014  ::  

Over a month ago I wrote this post about prayer. At first the stats showed that no one was really interested in reading it. However, thanks to several Second Mile community group leaders and a few others that have shared my words, it has grown to one of my most read posts.

I've been silent on this blog since I hit the publish button on that last entry. The week before Easter I led the prayer time during 2M's gathering on Sunday afternoon. A fire in my belly to urge the church to pray compelled me to speak boldly to my friends. Hopefully, my words were mixed with love and the fire I felt didn't just turn me into a dragon. Sometimes that happens, too. It's usually not pretty.

After our gathering two of my good friends came to encourage me. I told them that I was feeling like a better version of my pre-stroke self. Energized, focused, excited, hopeful, passionate, clear-headed were all adjectives I would have used that evening.

But I did not brace myself.
When I was in college and newly walking with Jesus, the words "spiritual warfare" were thrown around like a hot potato. Every bad day or rough interpersonal interaction found blame with the enemy. One could often hear among my social circle, "I'm really under attack right now," or "Oh, I'll pray for you. It sounds like Satan is attacking you." Every. Bad. Day. For reals. That's a little much, don't you think? Over the last twenty years I've come to realize that sometimes I'm just grouchy, or I wasn't responsible, or that "the enemy" isn't everywhere all the time and probably doesn't care much about what I'm doing. The real humbling stinger came when I realized there was no need for a spiritual attack if I wasn't doing anything for Jesus that Satan wouldn't like. Why would he waste his time on a spiritual time waster? Ouch.

Don't be shocked, but for many years in my late twenties and thirties I swung to the other extreme in spiritual warfare by thinking God's enemy and his minions couldn't care less about me. I was convinced they were busy torturing true soldiers of God like Billy Graham, the Pope, or Beth Moore. If any unexplained difficulty popped up in my life, I blamed my own sin or assumed God was using difficulties to sharpen and chastise me (which, by the way, can very often be true). If anyone mentioned to me that I may be "under attack" I could easily justify why I thought it was a bogus idea.

Lately I've been pondering spiritual warfare because after I wrote a blog about praying, asked the church to pray, witnessed people surrendering their lives to Jesus, and more whole-heartedly than ever in my life committed to pressing into telling people about God's unfailing love things have been a little out of whack, a little crazy, and a lot discouraging. All of this has forced me to look once again to the fact that spiritual warfare exists, that there is an enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion, that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." 
Over the last week I began to privately brace myself in this epic battle we face. The first step was to admit that Ephesians 6 is a very real passage with very real purpose and importance. I'm reading it and meditating on it. I've also picked up three books that are good for this season of my life.

Spiritual Warfare for Women by Leighann McCoy -- Why a book geared towards women? Well, duh, I'm a woman. But more than that, the description talked about how warfare for women can often look like extreme discouragement and the desire to quit and give up. Bingo. That almost perfectly describes my emotions over the last month. She also wrote that a primary way to do good battle is to memorize scripture. If you know me, you know that sold me.

Boundaries for Leaders by Henry Cloud -- Over this last month I've found myself in very strange conflicts. Chad recently referred to me as the toilet plunger of the church because for whatever reason (sin, my need to grow in this area, the enemy taunting me in my weakness) people come to me to complain about Second Mile. Often they don't see themselves as complaining, but if I've heard a dozen people say what is not great with our church it starts to feel like complaining. I have to learn some boundaries, and not just in this area, but also with my phone, with other people's very real hardships, with people who are in need. You see, I'm a bleeding heart. I love people, hurt with them, want to help them. But, when a bleeding heart does not have good boundaries they actually end up bleeding out. That's no good. (Don't be offended if I use my new boundary skills on you. Be proud of me instead.)

Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders by Dave Earley -- I will not back down. You better believe I'm going to keep fighting. This book represents that even though I'm reading two others to help me personally in the fight, I will also be growing in my understanding of how to fight.

Books aren't the answer to how I'm bracing myself. Jesus is. He is my foundation. I'm praying and asking for relief from the burden of discouragement and the desire to run and hide.
Would you pray for my family, too? Leadership can be a lonely place. We are growing and learning, but it can be so tiring.

What about you? Are you growing and living a life that the spiritual world takes notice? Do you blame everything or nothing on Satan? What scripture do you most often go to in your time of need?

4 important comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Prairie Momma said...

I so often think of the ones you mentioned already (1 Peter and Eph 6), but I also think about the whole armour verses. It's a process to put your armour on before each battle. Back in the day, they also didn't "abuse or neglect" their armour - like we do with tossing our Bible here and there with every intention of picking it up later..... Those knights took care to clean and polish their armour. They took care to remove the dents (sounds like your boundary book - I like Henry Cloud). Unrepaired dents are a liability as it will cave easier when hit in that area; it weakens the armour. They took care where they stored it - not left out in the rain and mud. Too often in my own life, I have not cared for the armour God has given me. I get busy, too tired, self-righteous and the list can go on and on. For whatever reason, I ultimately forget that satan is a lion - PROWLING and looking for prey. He may not be able to possess a Believer, but he certainly does everything in his power to distract me. I am always telling my children that we need to let go of the image of the little red suited man with a trident and long tail and remember he is an angel of light - we MUST be aware of our enemy. However, we also need to remember we do not battle alone. We have the MOST powerful General/King/Leader any army could have - BUT we have to seek out His wisdom in order to defeat our enemy. I often forget that. Finally (sorry my response was so long), when the knights would put their armour on, they still had one place where they were vulnerable and unprotected - their back. We Believers need to protect each other (prayer, support, encouragement, admonishment, etc). Rather than turning and attacking each other (like complaining to you), we need to "have each other's back". Ultimately, we will all enjoy eternity together - so it behooves us to learn to love each other here on earth. I love what you wrote, and it was very timely for me right now. I can't wait to share it with my family so we can discuss it and encourage each other more.

alisa said...

I've been studying Nehemiah with http://shereadstruth.com/ and I keep thinking of you, Angel. Reminders of things that you preach, or things that you would like to read. Anyways, one insightful quote about Nehemiah 4: Knowing His power to make His will happen is not an invitation to rest. Brace yourself with truth, be on guard day and night.

It's a paradox that we have here. Rest in the Lord, but be on guard. huh.

<3 you!

Jenna Miles said...

I'm sad to read that you're battling hard, and having toilet plunger moments. That imagery itself is gross, let alone the spiritual implications. I am praying encouragement, refreshment, and building up for you and the Haynes clan. You all sure are a blessing to Curtis and I.

Brittany O'Bryant said...

This was a great post, Angel. I have been thinking a lot about spiritual warfare lately, too, and have found that it is beyond real in my life. It is traced way back to the very beginning of our roots in the garden with the devil tempts Eve... "If God really loved you then..." The enemy came to steal, kill and destroy and one way he does that is by attacking our souls (our minds, will, and emotions). I am learning to rule my soul- taking my thoughts captive and discerning between the Lord's voice, my own, and the deceptive voice of the enemy (1 Corinthians 10:5). The truth is that God is always good and He is always in control. I am choosing to hold fast to these truths and striving to submit my thoughts and emotions to the Father instead of letting them rule me and tell me who I am. I'll be praying for you!

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