January 17, 2009

Evil Be Gone

"For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

I used to roll my eyes at the idea of "spiritual warfare." I'd hear people talk about it and imagine some B-movie silliness involving demons and angels and darkness and flames. Now I'm not so sure. I notice that in the times when I draw close to God, chaos encroaches on my life in new ways. Sometimes it's dreams, weird, disturbing, vaguely evil.

C.S. Lewis begins The Screwtape Letters with the following two quotations:

"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."—Luther

"The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked."—Thomas More

Consequently, in one sense, I try not to take evil too seriously, but to take it just seriously enough. Right in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray for deliverance "from the Evil One," even if we don't always translate it just that way.

St. Theresa of Avila, in her dense, mysterious writings, talks about how the spiritual dangers increase dramatically the closer we draw to the person of God. The only refuge is to draw closer still. She warns of how one can fall from the greatest heights of union with God to the lowest depths of Hell.

In me, there is nothing dramatic about my fall away from grace. It is a pitifully short lurch from heighth to depth; if Theresa is descending from Everest, I'm falling out of bed. I just get lazy and quit my evening prayer, then my morning prayer. I forget that I'm not God. Again.

And that's that, and evil has managed again to separate me from God. For the moment. I, in my sin and weakness and doubt, am left with the climax of Romans 8. I have thought, if I were left with only two verses of scripture, I hope they'd be these. Because they give me hope long past the point of my deserving to hope. Neither death, nor life, nor laziness, nor ignorance, nor stupidity nor any other human failing... Nothing. Ever.

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