Remember Who the Real Enemy Is

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Two weeks ago, I slipped away for 48 hours to the beautiful North Carolina mountains to speak for a women’s retreat. The theme for our time together was “Receiving Your Own Life: How Your Story Can Shine with the Beauty of Redemption.”

It’s the theme of my own life. And as I learned after two days with about 30 new friends, it’s not an unfamiliar theme. Live any length of time and you will find yourself with a story you probably would have written differently, even if it’s just an unwanted chapter or two.

Pinterest tells you to receive a curated life.

Experts tell you to receive only your best life.

American culture tells you to receive a prosperous life.

And I gulp it all down. I do. I want a life that’s lovely and charming, one in which I never feel any real lack or desperation. I want a life filled with beauty, adventure, abundance and peace.

These deep-seated longings are not wrong; they’ve been inside us all along, caged in our hearts and passed down throughout the ages. Man woke to life in a perfect garden, a place of unimaginable beauty, abundance, fellowship, and perfection. A place where work was delight instead of drudgery. A place where relationships were free from pain and complication. A place where shame and anxiety were not even words.

We’re all trying to get back to that place, aren’t we?

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On my way home from a literal mountaintop, I drove through the worst rain I’ve ever experienced. And then, forty-five minutes from home, I was warned of tornado sightings and took shelter at my sister’s house.

Two days after I returned, a hectic morning resulted in a driveway accident that left two cars {one of them purchased only weeks before} dented and damaged. Just a couple of months prior, I backed my own vehicle into a mailbox. We still need to replace the entire back door. So now all of our vehicles need repair. It’s frustratingly symbolic.

We are not in Eden anymore.

On the mountain, I told the women to expect these sorts of “enemies.” We’d spent some time talking about truths we have to remember if we’re going to “receive our own lives” and reflect redemption on a daily basis.

We have to remember who the real enemy is.

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Sometimes I re-watch The Hunger Games movies when they’re on TV. Just last night I tuned in at the part of Catching Fire when Katniss has her arrow pointed at Finnick, one of the other tributes in the Game. He says to her, “Katniss, remember who the real enemy is.”

{Spoiler alert.}

Once Katniss remembers the real enemy {the Capitol}, she redirects her arrow away from Finnick, her supposed enemy and rival tribute, and instead shoots into the forcefield of the Game itself.

In doing so, she shatters a false world and everything the real enemy had so carefully crafted to distract and deceive everyone.

And so it is with us. There are actual enemies at work: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I know, I know. That sounds fine and normal if we’re talking about a movie or a dystopian book series. But when we’re applying these concepts to our real lives? Well, it sounds like crazy talk. Surely we are too rational for this.

Even if we acknowledge the broken world as an enemy —

Even if we acknowledge our own flesh or ego as an enemy —

We often fail to acknowledge that there is real darkness waging war against real light. And so, like Katniss in the Game, we instinctively choose counterfeit enemies instead of the real ones. In the heat of our emotion and in the trenches of our mess, we simply forget.

Functional amnesia causes us to disregard the unseen enemy and to aim our arrow at the lesser foe right in front of us.

Our spouses

Our kids

Their decisions

Our co-workers

Our jobs

Church and its leaders

Elected officials

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If we can direct our anger, our energy, and our words toward a counterfeit enemy, the real enemy can prowl around unnoticed, growing all the more powerful as we become all the more blind. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have antagonistic people, legitimate conflict, and tangible forces working against us. We do. But consider the real enemy before you waste all your energy going to battle against a puppet or a distraction.

My enemy can look like a million different things, depending on the day:

It looks like 3 dented cars in my driveway.

It looks like someone I’m angry with.

It looks like the cancer that’s making my friend sick.

It looks like certain circumstances that will never change.

It looks like a nation viciously divided.

It looks like abuses of power and heartbreaking victimization.

It looks like poverty.

It looks like wealth.

It looks like the internet.

It looks like rejection of truth and beauty and peace.

I don’t know what enemies you face today. But my prayer in writing this post is that you may have the pause, the grace, and the wisdom to discern how to approach your own enemies.

My husband and I are no strangers to conflict, but several years ago we began reminding ourselves of this truth: We are on the same team. In a way, it’s just another way of saying, “Remember who the real enemy is.”

It doesn’t always solve the problem, but it does remind us to stand beside one another in solidarity against the actual enemy of our marriage, instead of facing off against one another as counterfeit enemies.

Real life is full of enough threats to our security, our peace, and our perspective. Let’s not make our own team members part of the opposing side.

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I was reminded a few days ago that God doesn’t tell us to wait for the enemies to be vanquished before we receive our own lives with trust and gratitude.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies. {Psalm 23:5}

I’d honestly never noticed this before. This is a Psalm about being led by still waters and having a Shepherd who quiets our souls. It’s a song about goodness and love and being anointed with oil and having a cup that overflows.

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All while enemies are still present.

As we remember who the real enemy is, may we also remember who the real Savior is. {Hint: It’s not us.} Jesus is both a warrior and a shepherd, a king and a servant.

He deals powerfully with our real enemies even as He cares for our wounded and weary souls.

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For further reading, Psalm 23

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Comments

  1. MEME BIRCHFIELD says

    This is exactly what I have been saying to my hubby and to my friends who are struggling in their marriages–let’s not forget we’re on the same team…and stop attacking one another. (Matthew 12:25) Thank you as always for your oh-so-encouraging words, Marian!

  2. Kim says

    Oh my goodness, this is so good. Unseen enemies, counterfeit enemies, Yes! Pointing that out, naming those realities, huge! I pray I remember this in the moment. “Remember who the real enemy is.”

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