I have been thinking lately about good and evil. This is probably no coincidence as I have been dealing recently with putting to rest (I hope) the spiritual abuse that took place when I was in high school. While I do not wish to paint the perpetrator of that abuse herself as an evil person, certainly any act of abuse carries within it an element of that which is evil, that is something which is totally “not good,” not of God. We had talked about that part of it often, C and I, as we wrestled with how much of a hold G still had on me after all these years, how her words to me on the stairs still burned in my soul. How those feelings of shame and inadequacy were still so easily triggered in me by the slightest feeling that I was doing something others might perceive as unacceptable for some reason. How even the need to be a “good priest” could set me off on a downward spiral. C would say over and over as I struggled to break free of this, “Clearly this is not of God.” And I would agree, and remain trapped in its grip. No, G was not evil. She was, herself likely abused, and she was using us to get her own needs met in ways that were unhealthy and damaging to us. She was twisted and she was dangerous and it is very unfortunate that she was allowed to run riot in our young lives.
Because it is in such places that evil, or Evil, if you will, I think steps in and takes advantage of the moment. For if God has dreams for us, Evil too, has its own designs, nightmares perhaps, that can unfold if the circumstances are right and the humans are cooperative. And Evil, I think very much wants its way. And Evil, having no qualms of conscience to hinder its path, will use whatever is available in the moment to have those dark dreams and plans come to be in our lives.
Sometimes the timing is just so uncanny it’s hard to believe it’s all just circumstantial. A round was won on that Friday night for freedom, for good, and I think I can say for God, because I know God smiled on it. A great bondage in my soul, which Evil needs to flourish, was released. The dark whispers that held me captive were suddenly no longer powerful, no longer working to keep me enthralled. In a new and very powerful way I belonged solely and utterly and wholly to God. There were no parts left behind, caught in the web of shame and confusion spun those many years ago. Nothing to catch, nothing to trip on, nothing here now for Evil to take advantage of. And sometimes it’s very strange how things “just happen” in time. On that Friday, I became free and found new strength in myself. On Monday that freedom and strength faced an attack. A strike out towards me in those places where I am most vulnerable. It seems almost as if Evil is looking for its wedge, its way back in, or perhaps rattling at the gates to see if there are places where this new knowledge and freedom will not hold. A place where I might be convinced to retreat again to that stairway in defeat, convinced again that she was right after all, that I am irredeemable and bad and everything good in me is sham and artifice.
But surprisingly, while I am angry and frightened, I have not been extremely triggered. Oh, there have been moments when I have heard the Critical Voice saying the expected things, the “What did you expect?” the “Of course!” and the “So who will care for you now!” There have been a few minutes of a slimy voice in my head that said “this is what you get for thinking you could get away….” And one that tried to link these events up as punishment for every sin I have ever committed! But all of that has been the exception, not the rule and it has been mercifully short-lived. There have also been, I have to admit, a few moments of “OK, God, where are you in all of this?” on my part, a few moments of some anger at God about it all. I am not happy about that. I wish I had more faith, more trust, more acceptance that all will be well, no matter what comes.
But Evil doesn’t get its way here. No matter what. There is no going back. Love wins. Truth wins. And that is all there is to it. And I know that God is in this. God is in the clear and present witness of those who are standing with me, supporting me, loving me, praying with and for me here, and across the world for heaven’s sake! God is with me in what I read this morning in Romans: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (12:14-21). God is with me in the strength that I feel in being able to keep pulling myself back from the edge when I want to go to the dark place of worst-case scenarios and what-ifs. God is with me in the timing. If that particular Friday had not come before Monday….I shudder to think of how much worse this would be.
I will be preaching on another passage from Romans a week from Sunday. About how all things work for good for those who love God. That has always been a hard one for me, because clearly that is not about happy endings. We don’t always get happy endings. I may not get one now. But I have something new to say about that passage now I think. It’s not about the ending….it’s about what happens in the midst, God in the midst, with us as we walk and hold that line against the places where Evil would like to seep back into our lives, or maybe create places where none were, or take advantage of natural occurrences and vulnerabilities. God is with us, and Evil ultimately has been defeated, and because of that we can hold the line and in the end, that really is all that matters. Thanks be to God.