One of the strongest weapons that we carry with us in the face of chaos and evil is our ability to not respond. Outwardly, anyway. In my training for spiritual warfare, though I’m not quite clear how I was to distinguish the training from the actual warfare, it was made quite clear that what our enemy seeks is signs of our weakness. It is their glory, in fact.
Ah, he says, you cry out in pain! You suffer because I caused you to suffer.
Silence is our heroic stance of refusing to admit what is happening inside us. It is the expression of ultimate courage to not let the enemy hear the sound of our anguish.
In the midst of my training, I was taught this lesson:
Question: How do you dance with the Great Bear of Anger? Answer: One step at a time.
One very careful, one very gentle step at a time.
Anger, it seems, is not the powder keg that it wants to be. It is not the clenched fist that seeks to bloody the nose opposite.
It is, instead and very simply, the force that drives us forward in times of stress. It is the energy needed for battle.
Like silence, anger can be used to build a wall between you and your opponent. A wall that protects you, and keeps you from entering into the fray.
And that is what spiritual warfare is all about basically: standing as still as you can, while drawing your enemy toward you, until you are backed up against a wall or are about to fall off of the cliff behind you, and, in your calm steadiness, you find the awareness to know to step aside as your enemy lunges again, and it’s the enemy that falls off the cliff, who slams into the wall, and is defeated.
And in spiritual warfare, defeat means simply to neutralize. To debone, as it were.
As shocking as it may sound, in God, in spiritual warfare, there is no retribution, no counter-attack. It is enough for the enemy to fall on his own sword, to conquer himself with his own hands. To be left with nothing to show for his time in battle.
There are quite a few spiritual weapons that God gives us to use: things like forgiveness and truth, the Lord’s Prayer, and even foolishness.
But there are times in the most intense battles when no weapon at all is the best approach. It is the approach of nothingness. The complete surrender to God’s will and command.
In the position of empty hands, there is no response to your enemy, even in your own heart. It is a place of complete stillness.
And it’s a skill that can be practiced in the most innocuous of times: at the office with a troublesome coworker, or at home with your thirteen-year-old daughter. In real, yet innocent, battles, you cannot maintain absolute distance for very long. Your coworker will need a response sooner rather than later, and your daughter will openly question your sanity if you are still with her for too long, as tempting as that may be.
In the end, in spiritual warfare, all that you have that you value will be gone. If it’s your pride that you prize, then you will be humbled. If it’s your ability to rise above a conflict with perfect steadiness, then you will become a screaming hysteric. And if it’s what you have acquired through your diligence and hard work, then, yes, either you will lose it outright, or its intrinsic worth will evaporate. You will come to see that it is all just stone, dust, and glitter.
While you may not be conquered, you will have enlarged your spiritual acumen, and that requires a lot (a lot, a lot) of stretching of those comfort rings that we keep so tightly bound around us. Our favorite possessions. Our favorite people. Trees that have leaves that turn different colors in the autumn. Farmer’s markets.
Letting go of the things we love is sometimes the only way that we are given to understand God on deeper and deeper levels. To find our trust in God, over and over again. To grow our faith until it blooms again and provides our souls with the sustenance they need.
Always remember that as odd as the above may sound, there is a perfect model of them before us at every moment: our Lord Jesus Christ. Who stood before his accusers in silence. Who carefully and gently strode through the anger that welled up inside of him Who gave no response to the screaming crowd.
And who lost his own life.
To win the spiritual battle for us.