satan’s cleverness…..

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Sometime back I heard a radio preacher comment that satan is not creative. He doesn’t need to be. The tools he has he uses very effectively. There is no need for any new ones. This week I was ambushed. Satan used a tool on me that he has used very effectively for quite some- my excessive sensitivity to what my husband and daughter think and my tendency to make quantum leaps from one innocent comment to monumentally extrapolated conclusions that reinforce my exaggerated concerns about what they might think.
I was in a fit of anxiety over an issue related to my daughter when my husband innocently commented that, in his opinion, her behavior might be related to her and her husband’s lives being more disciplined, orderly, simplified, etc. than ours. As he searched for a word that would sum up the character of our lifestyle I offered “chaotic?” which he agreed described it. I immediately interpreted his comment as a criticism of my busy (at times almost frantic) pace, our sentimentally and happily cluttered home, my multiple ‘to-do’ lists, my go-go-go daily schedule, etc. Since he himself has been critical of my use of time, use of space, use of opportunities, etc. I felt that he was expressing his own criticism while projecting it onto her. Or worse, that he and she both felt that way and I was thoroughly ganged up on! Ambushed. That’s how I felt. That feeling of course, put me on the defensive and when I am on the defensive I am like a battleship- blasting away at everything in sight with every ‘gun’ I’ve got. It’s not a pretty sight or comfortable in the least for those misfortunate enough to be caught in the fray. But the one that takes the hardest hit is usually me. Such posture leaves me aching with regrets when all my ammunition is spent.
Having discovered over the last two years how this process goes and how unproductive, even counterproductive, it is I now have the dilemma of having to be retrained in my response to criticism. I have already learned to deflect criticism from sources that are basically unimportant to my sense of self worth. People who are not particularly integral to my life or whose criticisms relate to things that are not especially vital to my sense of self I can laugh off or ignore. But when it is from people whom I love or whose criticism hits especially close to the quick of something dear to me I shift into defense mode in the blink of an eye and turn it around on them with what I now understand is essentially spiritually lethal force. As Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries has written, such behavior is tantamount to murder. It surely kills something in a relationship, if not in the spirit of an individual himself.
When our son was a teenager flexing his rebellion muscles, I was often the target of his battleship response, regardless of the source of the perceived slight or criticism. The only way I could cope with his outbursts was to rationalize that, since he knew I loved him no matter what I was the safest place for his venting. He knew I would not reject him regardless of how much verbal abuse he heaped on me. Perhaps I rationalized his behavior because that was my own method- vent on those whom I love most because they are most likely to continue loving me in spite of it.
Last week our two and half year old grandaughter was here. I had let her hold a little ceramic bird that she found attractive. When she accidentally dropped it, chipping its beak, she burst into tears and cried, “I want to go to timeout!”, feeling I guess that she needed to be punished for having dropped the little bird. It was not an expensive, fine treasure that I couldn’t risk losing or I would not have let her play with it. It was just a little reminder of a person who treated me kindly in a time of grief. So I hugged her and showed her that, with a little brown marker, its chipped beak looked just fine. She was satisfied that I had fixed the ‘boo-boo’ and that she didn’t need to go to timeout.
Well, I find myself asking God to discipline me, to put me timeout, for all the damage I do to His treasures. Sadly, I know that the treasures of His that I’ve chipped, dinged, or smashed ARE priceless treasures that He wouldn’t risk losing and yet He allows them in my life. Doesn’t He know I’m like a clumsy fingered toddler? Doesn’t He know I can’t be trusted with fragile things? Or is He, like a gentle, loving, kind Father, simply patiently teaching me how to handle such treasures more carefully? How many times has He found it necessary to use His spiritual ‘markers’ to repair the things I’ve abused, deliberately or accidentally?
I am praying that I can do like the Apostle Paul directs- put off the old and put on the new. This is definitely an old, worn, tired, faded and frayed garment that needs to be replaced. Having failed so often though in the last 30+ years, I know it will not be by my strength of will but only by surrender of this to Christ’s power will I have a prayer’s hope of succeeding!

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