You may or may not know that my little crisis has officially come to an end…and hopefully not just for now. You are probably not aware that I actually wrote this entry a few days ago, but I was unable to post it to the blog when it was complete. The little crisis – I was hacked and the site was taken over by someone or something calling themselves “The Viper.” Creative, huh? What I do not know and probably never will know is if I was singled out for The Viper’s venomous assault or if I am just some unlucky web junkie who was randomly selected for an attack by an anonymous computer program designed to seek and destroy unsuspecting websites strewn far and wide across the web.
This site is my baby, one of our family’s great prides, and a huge part of what we consider to be our ministry so having it come under attack like this and having it rendered useless both to us and to you caused no shortage of strife in our little world. I don’t have a computer guy on speed dial and I don’t know much in the way of fixing them myself. I know homebuilding very well, along with kids and blogging and family and a few other things, but I don’t know computers in the least bit. The code in which they operate, the lines of seeming gibberish that run behind the curtains of any website you visit and which are actually responsible for everything you see, are complete nonsense to me – I’d have an easier time communicating with an illiterate Russian mime than I would a line of code. So when the hack attack commenced leaving me utterly useless to counter the assault and restore my baby to health I was frustrated, angry, and………let’s just leave it at that.
In a seemingly unrelated note, another little issue has had us feeling much the same way and at the same time (coincidentally?) has been playing out in our home, our heads, and our hearts. ‘Quints By Surprise’ is on the brink of being cancelled by TLC – a victim of…well, I don’t know exactly what it is the victim of. You can say that the ratings haven’t been as good as they needed to be (not true if they are held to the standard by which we were told they were being held to) or you could blame it on placement and promotion (I don’t know the TV world well enough to say one way or another). You could blame it on the dollars (‘Quints’ is not a cheap show to produce) and you could certainly make a case against society as the culprit (seems that clean and wholesome don’t live long on TV these days) or maybe the show just isn’t that good to most observers (our opinion doesn’t count unfortunately – we’re a little biased). You could blame the potential demise of our show on any of these things and probably a few more we could think up together and truth is it is probably a combination of all of them (except the part about the show not being very good… :-)).
But I have another thought. There is something out there that is possibly behind my little crisis, the struggle we are having with our little TV show, and just about everything else that doesn’t quite work out the way we hoped. This thing, this thought, this theory or belief or superstition or whatever you would like to call it doesn’t get much play these days, but it is a possible explanation despite the fact that it is often ignored, marginalized, mocked, or denied whenever it is brought up in most situations. I’m going to walk carefully through this one so y’all don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end so bare with me a bit. Here goes…
“Who, in their right mind, Kevin, could possibly deny the 20th century was entirely mine? All of it…all of it.” – John Milton (aka: the Devil) from “The Devil’s Advocate”
C.S. Lewis called this ground we walk on enemy-occupied territory and its master is described in Revelation as a “great dragon with seven heads and ten horns”. The Apostle Peter called him a roaring lion who is looking for someone to devour. And in Genesis he is nothing more than a snake in the tree, hissing his lies at the genesis of our kind. He is Satan and this is his playground. You know him well from books and Bible class and TV and movies, but do you know him on a personal level? Do you consider him to be your enemy, the ruler and master of a dark, unseen world or do you think of him more like how you think of the boogey man – just a harmless child’s story that you no longer believe in now that you’re a big boy or girl? Do you consider that the Bible teaches that he has declared war on this world and the sons and daughters of God who live in it? Or do you marginalize him as a myth or a metaphor, as anti-intellectual or nothing more than a scare tactic for overzealous Bible beaters?
We all know that this world is broken as are many, if not most of the people in it. I don’t need to recite the statistics or recount the stories of death, destruction, and depravity that permeate every aspect of our lives for you to believe that. Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims alike can all find agreement on one thing: this world is a mess. Good grief, we don’t even need to consult the religious of our day for proof – atheists hold up the newspaper and highlight the headlines of war and disease and sex gone wrong, teen pregnancy, and the hypocrisy of the next fallen church leader as exhibit A in their trial against the existence of a benevolent being we call God. And while we’re at it, let’s consult the agnostics among us who honestly admit they do not know if there is a God or not and are simply trying to hold themselves to a high standard of conduct – if you know one ask them how they think the world is getting along these days. Save yourself the trouble and trust me, I’ve already given you their reply – this world is a mess.
But forget about the obvious signs of evil on display in our world today – you won’t find many to disagree when you proclaim that Osama Bin Laden or Jeffrey Dahmer are evil men who committed evil deeds. Let’s take it down to a more personal level – what about that boss of yours that continually marginalizes you in company meetings? What about that mean girl at school who always has something awful and loud to say about your hair or your clothes…or the way you breathe? What is the force behind their hatred of you? What about those dizzy spells that won’t go away and can’t be explained by the doctors? Or how about the chronic pain in your hands that prevent you from holding your grandbabies? And what about the flat tire you got on the way to lead your small group Bible study, the horrible night sleep you got the night before final exams, or the car accident you got into on the way to your performance in the high school play?
Are some of these simply examples of bad people living bad lives and doing bad things while the rest are just plain old bad luck? Or can we write it all off as an unfortunate fact of life – that it sometimes sucks and sometimes bad things happen to good people?
I think that it is safe to say that none of us have the answers to these questions. And I think it is also safe to say that anyone who has lived more than about 5 or 6 years in this world would concede that sometimes life is hard and no fun at all. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think we can all agree that pain and suffering is universal, that bad things happen to good people because that is the way of this world, and that many times life and the people who live it are mean, cruel, jaded, embittered, and sometimes outright evil.
So why do we all, Christians and non-Christians alike, refuse to accept the possibility that there is a larger hand at play in the very brokenness we all agree exists and is progressing at unprecedented levels in spite of equally unprecedented attempts to stop it all (I just read somewhere that 2010 was a record year of giving for Americans)? If pain and suffering and cruelty and evil are among the few universal truths of this world, why is it so difficult to accept and acknowledge (or even consider!) that there is a common denominator, a single hand stirring the pot, an accuser, attacker, and advocate of evil, darkness, destruction, and death?
I know I know…I get it – it’s kind of weird to talk about angels and demons and supernatural intercession and interference into our lives. It’s kind of goofy, isn’t it? Talking about the Devil and his army of demons attacking you feels about as sane as talking about the latest sighting of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster as real events that are proof of their existence. And it gets worse for us Americans – not only is it goofy, it is blatantly un-American. We are the Marlboro Man and John Wayne on steroids. We are self-made, individualistic, and we are responsible for our own destiny. We believe in hard work, freedom, and liberty, and we’ll be damned if someone thinks we’re going to let the Boogey Man hold us back from fulfilling our self-inspired and self-created destiny. We are masters of one and slaves to none… (And to that, I say yeah, right!)
Sidebar – now that I think of it, in a way, blaming the Devil for evil in this world is a very American pastime after all. Look at all of the evil and oppression and violence and hatred that has been spread in this country alone “in God’s name”. Could anything be more blatantly evil and dare I say, Satanic, than subverting the beauty and grace and love of Christ into something that is used to oppress and intimidate and destroy? Americans certainly do not have the market cornered in the economy of zealous authority, but we have certainly advanced the cause over the course of our history.
Look, I’m not saying that the Devil personally attacked my blog or is the puppet master holding the strings and controlling the players who are advocating that ‘Quints’ ends up on the TLC cutting-room floor. I do not look for the devil in every detail of my life, good or bad, and I do not suggest that you do either. And I am certainly not suggesting that you waste your time cowering under the covers or looking around every corner, constantly afraid of the next attack and seeing Satan’s hand in every harsh thing that happens in this world (any of y’all reading this have Saturday Night Live’s “Church Lady” in your head right now?). But still…I believe he’s out there and I know he’s up to no good. So if I am saying he is out there and he is plotting against you, but I am also saying that it really doesn’t matter because you can’t live your life in fear of him what exactly is it that I’m saying…?
Let me ask this, if you were a 10-year-old and your father ran a farm and he told you to go out to the barn and get a shovel for a ditch he needed dug, you’d do it right? Sure you would…you’d amble out to the barn, chase a few chickens along the way, hop up on a hay bale once you got into the barn, and declare yourself king of the mountain before grabbing the shovel and making your way back to your father, ready for some serious digging. Piece of cake and kind of fun, too…another day of hard work with your dad and a little adventure to the barn to liven things up a bit. But what if, while you were making your way across the chicken coop to get to that barn and the shovel within, your father hollered out, “be careful, there’s a snake in that barn and he’s been up to no good.”?
Gulp! What kind of snake exactly? How big is he and what kind of no good has he been up to?? And if there is one, wouldn’t there be others? Are there lights in the barn so I can see him if he comes after me? Can I have a weapon to protect and defend myself – a knife, a gun…a suit of body armor and a bazooka maybe???
That snake kind of changes the stakes of the game…kind of takes the gitty-up out of your get-along, doesn’t it little buddy? Instead of ambling, you’re creeping your way to the barn. And instead of chasing the chickens you’re cussing them for sneaking up on you and scaring the bejeezus out of you. You’re no longer king of the mountain – you’re the meekest of mice on the molehill. But you can’t let your father down so you summon the courage and convince yourself that he wouldn’t send you off to certain death; and with fierce resolve you make it into the demon’s den, retrieve the shovel…………………..then turn and run faster than your 10-year-old legs have ever carried anything in their young lives and get back to the task at hand, shovel-ready, digging away…all the while hoping your father noticed how bravely and dutifully you worked to fulfill the mission he set you out on.
You did it. You survived. You faced evil and evil did not win…not today, not on your watch.
But what really changed after your father warned you about the snake? It was just a warning, right, not a guarantee? Did knowing the snake was in there somewhere certify that you would be attacked, bitten, wrapped in his coils, and dragged off to the snake’s lair someone past the seventh gate of Hell? And if that is the case, why on Earth did you still go in??
The fact is that nothing changed; nothing at all. The snake was in there whether you knew he was there or not. It didn’t matter whether you knew he was there, were fully aware of his presence or were ignorantly bliss…or even if you denied his existence or presence in your life. And being a 10-year-old without a knife, a gun, or a suit of body armor and a bazooka at your disposal there probably isn’t a whole lot you could do if you found yourself face-to-face with the little devil anyway. Nothing you could do at all…other than run. Nothing to do other than run as fast as your 10-year-old legs have ever carried anything back to where you knew it was safe…back to your father.
But knowing the snake was there changed everything, didn’t it, If only in your mind. Sure, it didn’t change your capabilities or your strength; your ability to outwit or outmaneuver the snake wasn’t changed, either. But it changed your approach, didn’t it? You didn’t amble, you crept. And you didn’t play around, you prepared. You didn’t eye the top of the hay bale mountain and declare yourself king, you kept your eye out for the king of evil and declared yourself………defeated.
And then you ran. You ran back to your father, back to where it has always been safe. Because you know that your father has been there and he has faced the evil that you fear…and he has faced the evil that you deny. He has been to the barn and he’s been to the battlefield. He’s been to the boardroom and he’s been to your classroom. He’s faced the mean girls and he’s faced the mean boss. He’s faced the devil in all of those places and he’s faced him in places you haven’t and never will. He’s faced him in Heaven, he’s faced him on Earth, and he’s faced him in Hell.
But through it all, your father is still there watching over you and waiting on your return. And over the years he sends you out on many more missions to the barn and other places where evil lurks and you’ve managed to survive them all. Sure you’ve been scarred along the way, bumped your head a few times in your mad dash out of the serpent’s lair, but you’ve survived…every single time. And funny thing is, you’ve never seen the snake face to face, but you know he’s there. You’ve seen the destruction around you, you’ve heard his whispers, and you know his scent. But in spite of this you don’t run from the barn these days, you walk, confident and prepared…
So I guess that’s what I’m trying to say…evil is real. It is real and it is everywhere, it has a source, it has power, and it has you in its sites. You know the devil is out there so don’t deny him. Don’t deny him, don’t fear him, and don’t run from him. Be aware of him and be prepared for his inevitable assault. But above all, know that your father has been there where you are now and where you fear to go…and know that he is still there, watching over you, protecting you, and waiting on your return.