In the middle, or so, of an extensive battle, my mind, searching for some respite, a raft in the sea of chaos, began to map out the design of it all. And even back then I was touched by it. Moved by the grace in the beauty of a mosaic that, to me anyway, shouldn’t have been there. The mapping continued over the number of battles that followed the first.
Man’s warfare is about devastation with mere glimpses of grace here and there.
God’s warfare is about grace with the impression of devastation here and there.
In a way, perhaps, they share a similar goal: to make over what is before the soldier.
I actually began a book based on my notes: (1) the 12 stages or weapons of spiritual warfare; (2) the swords of God; (3) members of his army; (4) the enemy; etc. It was a prayer book. A collection of prayers gathered to represent each element. I lost the hundreds of pages of this tome when my hard-drive failed. But somehow, a copy of the Table of Contents survived.
And that, along with my reflection on the subject, has turned the shock and trauma of going through those battles into a comforting blanket of acceptance and understanding. Well, a beginning of acceptance and understanding, at least.
The 12 stages (or weapons) used in spiritual warfare are:
- Foolishness (or the art of deception)
- Pain and suffering
- The Law
- The Lord’s Prayer
- The Truth
- The Sacrament
I worked them, in that exact order, so often I didn’t have to refer to the list to know what was coming next. Always in that order. First love, then forgive, then confess your shortcomings to doing those two things. And then. . . .
And so it went.
Other aspects of spiritual warfare include intercessory prayer and learning balance. (I’ve been meaning to write about the difference between authority and power, the means of finding our balance, for a while now.)
But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I had to turn everything I thought about spiritual warfare around. Completely and fully around.
I finally found a way to reach out and change my approach to it from it being an assault of some kind (a God kind) to only a form of service.
Service to the one designated as the enemy.
I mean I always knew that in the end, the enemy was just settled in his life in a gentler fashion (gentler both to the enemy and those around him). It was never about annihilation. Or proving who was better and stronger.
It was always about relinquishing one’s self, surrendering to one’s cross, kind of like Obi Wan Kenobi’s sacrifice. His death led to the means of winning the war; a war that ended with Darth Vader posing for a family photo.
Of course God’s battle is not George Lucas’s battle. In God’s battle, the emphasis is on being continually defeated, which convinces your opponent that he has the upper hand. Eventually, after pounding away at you, the opponent becomes self-assured. He begins to take his advantage for granted. He starts to make mistakes. And just when he thinks he’s coming in for the kill, one simple sidestep by you, and it is the enemy that goes over the cliff. Or trips and falls on his own sword.
Because, in spite of the enemy’s conviction that you are worthless and idiotic, it is you that has been paying attention. Keeping notes on each and every step your enemy has taken. You know his every breath. So you know how he moves. You know when he moves. You know why he moves.
The lesson of anger: When you dance with the great bear of anger, go slowly. Go gently. Step very carefully.
Because it’s his anger that will throw him off-balance.
You, you must always stay facing your enemy.
You must always take the continual defeat that is the path to victory.
You must die.
Jesus is the ultimate mapmaker for this process.
You believe that I am dead, but I am not. I not only live. I will come back to you.
But in the end, as Jesus shows us, the purpose of spiritual warfare is to serve your enemy.
I think of Mother Teresa. Who served the poor and the sick. Astonishing the world around her. A world that keeps people in their place. Places that she lifted them out of. And the greater world that tried to force her to build hospitals, stop baptizing her charges, and change her position on abortion.
Each morsel of food that she fed her charges, all the shelters that she provided, every bath that she gave were tiny triumphs over those who sought to bring her down. And a dissipation of the evil that collected around her.
Spiritual warfare, then, is really about offering life to your enemy. About releasing his soul from containment. About liberating him from his bondage.
In spiritual warfare, kindness is not only a step in the process of the war, it ultimately becomes its own track when that is the only thing that you are committed to. Acts of kindness. Not random. Not senseless. But purposeful and committed.
They are reminders that you are only there to serve.
Which is just an extension of God’s service to them.