Thursday, March 31, 2011

Whose My Enemy?

Several days ago I floated this question on my FB page, “Have you ever wondered why ‘a man after God's own heart’ has so many enemies? What do you think?” The answers posted were pretty much what I expected. Some responses surprised me. A few wondered what I have been thinking about my own question.

I’m glad people asked—here’s my take on my own question. David had all kinds of enemies throughout his lifetime. But not all his enemies were alike. Sometimes his enemy seems to be the “infernal” kind—you know, “the dark enemy of our soul,” the unseen and invisible malevolent force often associated with fire. Other times, David’s enemies seem to be “external,” real flesh and blood people who betrayed him, chased him, fought him, misrepresented him, slandered him, framed him, and the list goes on and on. And then there is the third kind of enemy David had to contend with; an “internal” enemy, that is, himself.

God commended David as, "a man after God’s own heart,” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). We know that David was by no means a perfect man, so why the sterling commendation? I wonder if the answer doesn’t have something to do with his enemies, chiefly an enemy called himself.

Most days I have a default response when it comes to identifying my enemies. My kneejerk response when I perceive I’m in enemy territory is to conclude that my enemy is always “out there.” Among those I quickly want to brand enemy #1 are: secularists, liberals, the government, atheists, Muslims, those espousing alternative lifestyles, or who knows what? And while I’m busy identifying my enemies “out there,” it never occurs to me that enemy #1 might be just be me, the enemy “in here.” Could it be that the reason why David speaks so frequently and forthrightly about his enemies is because he regularly confronted his biggest enemy—himself. When I am willing to confront my own darkness, face my own shadow side and wrestle with my own self-righteous disposition, I am in a much better position to be God-formed. If I don’t understand the enemy within, I will make a thousand excuses for making those “out there” the enemy.

Quaker Parker Palmer says in his book, Let Your Life Speak, “We like to talk about the outer world as if it were infinitely complex and demanding, but it is a cakewalk compared to the labyrinth of our inner lives.”