The ultimate pervert
My son prayed in tongues a few weeks ago, and it nearly scared me to death. Not because the act itself was surprising (though it was) or because I thought he was possessed by some evil spirit (he’s not), but because I realized how easily that gift could be twisted for evil purposes and that I had no idea how to prevent it.
See, my son is special. I know—everybody’s kid is special. But Mr. Man has a connection to the Lord that is greater than my own even as I’ve been working at it for years. It’s because his heart is unfettered by the world the way mine is; the self that he’s offering up is more honest and complete than mine. He will step away from playing because he feels the urge to say prayers. He spontaneously makes up songs to God and asks me to write them down for him so he can sing them later. He feels the movement of the Holy Spirit in ways I don’t fully understand. I love this about him. I want to encourage it. But it scares me because I don’t know how to protect him.
The term “spiritual warfare” is one I don’t recall hearing until the past year or so. I’m sure it’s come up before and I simply haven’t taken note. But a few months ago, as Young Christian Mom and I were first feeling the pull to move away from corporate work and be home-based and God-first, I remember a simple warning from my pastor: “If you do this, expect to be hit hard.”
He didn’t mean by a truck, either, though that would’ve been easier to see coming.
No, he meant that there’s more to the world than what we see and touch. God’s not dead, and neither is the devil. And Satan plays dirty and sly, and it doesn’t take much for him to screw things up. He’s the ultimate perverter.
We hear that word and tend to jump immediately to sexual depravity. But the verb “to pervert” really means to redirect action to a wrong end, or to twist the meaning of something. And that’s all it takes, really, is a very slight diversion from what is good and intended. The most compelling villains in literature and cinema are not the overtly evil ones, but the manipulators—those who prey on others’ good intentions and desires to orchestrate their owns ends. The most powerful way to get someone to assist your bad plans is to make them think they’re doing good. (Contemporary pop-culture example: Harrison Wells in the Flash Netflix series.)
And the devil rarely has to twist very much. He’ll use scripture to convince people slavery is OK or to increase racial or socioeconomic divides. To convince otherwise good people to stand by and do nothing. He doesn’t need to completely reorder our way of thinking, just give a slight judge here and there and we’re perfectly capable of taking it the rest of the way. He takes things that are designed good originally and tweak them very slightly—this slightness is important because it covers the stink of the lie with the perfume of the truth. He’s not about a full-frontal assault; spiritual warfare is guerilla. Not even that—it’s the cold war to the nth power, full of spies and subterfuge and double-agents. It’s about the small differences between doing what is right and doing what feels right.
And now that war is playing out in my home. Satan is at work, somehow, lurking, waiting, and I can’t quite pinpoint it. That’s what scares me: I don’t know what his plans are, and I probably won’t see them coming. My kids are so little. How can they stand up to him? Isn’t that my job as a father—to protect them with all my power?
Therein lies the problem: My power is nothing. I’m just a man, and not an especially strong one at that. I don’t stand a chance against the powers of a strong and beautiful fallen angel on my own. Which is why every day I’m calling on God for his protection of my family. I’m looking at Ephesians 6:11, which says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (NKJV).
My role as a father is not to stand up to the devil through my own power, but to dress in the armor and make ready for war, and to outfit my children with those same garments and weapons. It all sounds reassuring until I think, “What four-year-old is ready to carry a sword?” That seems preposterous to ask.
But then I remember how Mr. Man prays with such fervor, how he tells his sisters about God’s love without my prompting, how he asked to take communion because he wanted Jesus inside him. And I realize that he’s already wielding a sword of the Spirit so sharp, the devil had better watch out.