For many years, Samantha had guided her family to work outside their home. Besides teaching, her children also gave frequent talks to a great variety of people who asked, helped out in the soup kitchen downtown, shopped in small as well as large businesses, and donated to relief organizations. If someone had a need, they were to be quick to say yes. Samantha believed in the value of everyone, and instructed her family to use their resources to promote the welfare of others.
Not only concerned for those outside her home, Samantha also worked hard for those within her home. Her family was extremely important to her, and her children, in return, loved her greatly. At first her children had been supportive and grateful for her words to them even though they knew as well as she did that things weren’t perfect. She encouraged them to voice their concerns and suggestions with the intent that they would work on the problems as a family. But as her family grew, so did the problems. Sibling rivalry became a constant source of friction and it seemed she was no longer good enough for many of her children. No matter what she said, someone would complain. If she suggested steak and baked potatoes for dinner, some of her children complained that she ignored their desire for single dish meals. If she directed her family to clean the living room, some of her children complained that she was saying the dirt in the other rooms didn’t matter. Stains settled on shirts were her fault for not having treated them immediately. No matter how hard she worked, there were always more complaints about more messes. Some of her children blamed her that the messes even existed. They yelled, criticized, and threw tantrums. They turned on the siblings that ignored their rants or defended Samantha, and vowed to force them to change or to be attacked, which resulted in more fights as the second group retaliated with anger and name calling. Few children looked at themselves as the cause of many of the problems.
Samantha was concerned with the increasing discord in her family but was frozen from action by conflicting ideas on how to stop it. The stress of indecision weakened her immune system, which allowed viruses and bacteria to begin infiltrating her body. She fought against them the best she could, but could feel herself losing when a cancer took root and began spreading throughout her body.
One day a friend arrived. He had been watching the decline of Samantha’s family and could no longer stand by and do nothing. He suggested that she reduce her outside work for awhile in order to focus on the problems in her house. She followed his advice and began to shift her priorities. But as she did, her hidden illness began interfering with her work. The man recognized the signs of cancer in her and told her and her family that helping her regain her health was one of his top priorities. Until she was healthy, she wouldn’t be able to take care of anyone properly.
The backlash came quickly and violently. Many of the children denied that Samantha was sick and refused to acknowledge the symptoms the man pointed out. They said he was lying in order to take control, and that as long as their mother did things their way, they could take care of all the family problems themselves. They did not want this man in the house, and demanded that he leave. Other children disagreed, saying that the cancer would contaminate any solutions tried and would only result in more problems. They wanted the man to stay, thankful for his help and intervention.
It seemed as if the disagreement would last forever, but eventually, a plan was devised and successfully executed by the first group of children, forcing the man to leave and replacing him with a woman. This woman also denied that anything was wrong in Samantha’s body and threatened to take action against anyone who disagreed. The children in the second group watched sadly as Samantha was put back to work without consideration of any possible health issues. While the first group of children celebrated their victory, the second group worried that the end result would be their beloved mother’s death, and were frustrated with the lack of freedom to voice any more of their concerns.
Will the first group of children care enough about the feelings of the second group to let a doctor examine the health of their mother to verify whether or not she was healthy?
Will the second group of children quietly submit to the woman’s threats, or will they rise up to confront the unfairness of censorship?
Will the man go back to his own life and ignore the needs he saw in his friend, or will he continue to find ways to get her the help he thinks she needs?
Will Samantha survive the intense battle that rages over her?
Only time will tell.
This allegory was written in response to a question I read this morning. My prayer is that God opens all of our eyes to what is true – to see the truth no matter which group of children we are in – to acknowledge what is true and not true in what we see and what the other side sees – and to recognize the truth about the evil spiritual enemy who is the real mastermind behind this battle – for without truth, there can be no healing or unity in our country.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. (Ps 25:5)
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Ps 43:3)
These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; (Zech 8:16)
and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
Amusement park: Puppet Show
The sound of lively music greeted Amalia and Jesus as the merry-go-round slowed to a stop. The fast, happy notes hinted at something fun that was about to happen, and Jesus and Amalia decided to check it out. Along the way they walked through drifting scents of popcorn, barbecue grills, and funnel cakes.
“Mmm… that’s smells delicious! Can we get something to eat next?” Amalia asked, taking a big sniff.
“Sure.” Jesus grinned at her as her stomach gave out a loud rumble. “Sounds like your stomach agrees with your nose.”
A few minutes later, they found a group of chairs lined up in front of a curtained stage. Some of the chairs were occupied by a few people, but most chairs were empty. Jesus led Amalia to a couple of chairs in the first row. Just as they sat down, the music stopped, the curtain opened, and a man walked to the center of the stage.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I am thrilled that you are here! We have a special treat for you today. The Teppup family has invited you to join them as they work in their garden. Mr. Teppup is digging up the ground with the help of his older daughter, while the younger two kids are helping their mother with the flats of small plants. It seems they are having a wonderful family bonding experience…” The man hesitates as the sound of yelling comes from behind the curtain. “Or maybe not. We’d better go see what’s happening.” He motions to the curtain, which opens as he backs his way off stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Teppup family!”
Amalia smiled when she saw the family. She loved puppets! This was going to be great!
“I want to plant the purple flowers!” yelled a small girl. “Purple is my favorite color!”
“No, I chose them first, so they’re mine!” the smaller boy yelled back while grabbing the flowers out of her hands.
“Mo-om! Make him give me the purple ones!”
“That’s enough. From both of you. I’LL decide who plants what. Right now I want you to work together to get all the plants out of the flat regardless of the color of the flowers.”
With some grumbling, and a little pushing, the kids got back to work. The mother sighed, “Those kids must hate me. They’re always making my life hard,” as she turned around and continued removing the small plants from her flat. Sometimes she could slip the plant easily from the flat, loosen its roots, and lay it on a tray. But more often the plants didn’t come out without a lot of tugging, shaking, and prodding. And these plants didn’t always make it out in one piece. Mrs. Teppup got increasingly frustrated and began complaining against people who pack plants in stupid flats that make it impossible to get the plants out without damaging them. Suddenly a squeal erupted from behind her, and she turned just in time for a small plant to crash into her face. The kids, covered in dirt, were pointing to each other.
“It’s her fault!”
“He did it!”
“No I didn’t ! You did!”
Mrs. Teppup groaned, and then said, “Both of you – get inside and clean up. And don’t come back out until you can get along.” She picked up the tray, took one last look at the mess her kids had made, then walked to the garden plot her husband and older daughter had just finished tilling.
“How’s it going over here?” She asked as she set the tray on the ground.
“From the sound of it, better than it’s going over there with you and the kids.”
“Yeah,” the older daughter agreed. “Those two are always a pain.”
“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Teppup said. “I said…”
“It doesn’t matter,” Mrs. Teppup interrupted. “Let’s not get into another debate. Is the ground ready?”
“Yes it is. And we did good, didn’t we dad?” the girl answered.
“It’s perfect,” he said as he touched the dirt. “You can start planting whenever you want.”
“Aren’t you going to help?” Mrs. Teppup, eyebrows raised, looked from father to daughter.
“Um… I thought we just had to dig up the weeds…” the girl said. “I… have some… things I need to do.”
“And the football game is about to start,” Mr. Teppup said. “You knew that.”
“But I thought… forget it. You do whatever you want. I don’t need you.” She bent down, picked up a plant, and shoved it into the dirt. In a low voice, she grumbled, “They’re just like everyone else – always letting me down. They…”
Amalia stopped listening and turned to Jesus. “I thought this was supposed to be funny. But it’s not. I don’t want to watch anymore. Can we leave?”
“I agree with you. Let’s go.”
They got up quietly, and headed back towards the food area. As they walked, Jesus asked Amalia a question.
“What was Mrs. Teppup’s main problem?”
Amalia wasn’t sure. “Her family?”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because the kids kept fighting and her husband and older daughter left her to plant the flowers by herself.”
“I’m sure Mrs. Teppup would have agreed with you. But think a little deeper. What was really happening?”
“Well, the kids each wanted the purple flowers… Mrs. Teppup was complaining about everything, and Mr. Teppup and the older daughter wanted to go do their own things… so… maybe they were all thinking about themselves, and not each other.”
“Right. What should Mrs. Teppup do about that?”
“Trade them in for new family members. Or treat them like they are treating her, and not do anything for them.”
“I guess not. Maybe have a family meeting. She could tell the others how she feels when they act that way.”
“That’s a good idea. But there’s an even better, more important, one.”
Amaila thought, but couldn’t come up with any other ideas that topped this one. “I give up. What?”
“Mrs. Teppup’s struggle is not really against her husband and children. It’s against the unseen puppeteers who are controlling the strings. So she should pray. ”
Amalia laughed. “Of course! They are just puppets!”
“But it’s kind of like that with people, too. There are spiritual forces influencing how people act. These forces don’t actually control people like the puppeteers control the puppets, but they can influence people to think and act in ways that may bother other people. Or may make someone feel more bothered than they should be.”
“So Mrs. Teppup should look past what she sees to what she can’t see, and pray?”
“But pray what? That God makes her family act better?”
“Well, if she prayed that God changed their hearts, including her own, to be turned towards Him, and if she looked for ways to share His love with them, the end result would be a more loving family.”
“But what about the spiritual forces?”
“God will fight those battles for her, if she trusts Him to do so, and doesn’t try to do it on her own.”
“One more question,” Amalia said, sniffing the air. “Can we go eat now?”
Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
Dear Frustrated One,
Why do you keep pushing me away when it’s my hand that holds what you want? I can see how hungry you are. I know what you want and I want to give it to you. But you are the one stopping me. All that hitting and flailing out prevents me from doing what we both want. I can keep battling your efforts to do it yourself but it would be so much easier if you would just relax and let me do for you what you can’t yet do for yourself. Oh, and those screams are not helping. Be still, Little One, and know I am here, ready to feed you as soon as you let me.
Someone who loves you
For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Ps 107:9
These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my granddaughter. But they are also letters God is writing to you. Reread them, replacing the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!
I wish sometimes she would just shut up and let me have what I want without making me feel guilty about it. I’m talking about that inner voice, the one that puts a damper on everything.
All I wanted was some of those sugar crusted spice drops. I could just taste the sparkly sugar dissolving in my mouth… Or that buttered popcorn, dripping with golden deliciousness…
But then the voice. “You don’t need it.”
Fine. I don’t need it. But I definitely want it.
“Your body doesn’t need it. Let it go. Fill your hunger with something healthier.”
Now my choices are to heed or to ignore the voice. Either way I will live with a regret. Either momentary regret passing up something delightful to my senses, or lasting regret living with the effect it has in my body. I’d love to say I had the discipline and maturity to choose the latter each time, but I don’t. There’s a battle between my inner child and my inner adult, and it’s evident when you look at my body, that my inner adult doesn’t always win.
The same holds true in the spiritual world…
That gossip sure sounds enticing. Just the thought of staying abreast of people’s lives and being in the know… Or that computer game that I just might beat with a little more time…
“You don’t need it.”
Sure, I don’t need to do either. But I want to.
“Your spirit doesn’t need it. Let it go. Fill your time with something healthier.”
The choices remain the same: heed or ignore the voice. The consequences also remain the same. Momentary regret or lasting regret. I’d love to say that I had the spiritual maturity and discipline to win these battles, but just like in the physical world, I don’t. In fact, I find winning these battles harder because it’s way easier to live with a fat, sluggish spirit than it is to live with a fat, sluggish body. No one can see it so it’s easy to hide it and even live in denial.
Why not end the war and just do what I want? After all, it’s not a salvation issue.
Maybe not, but it’s definitely a health issue.
Being healthy provides a higher quality of life than being unhealthy. I feel better when I’m healthy. I can be more active when I’m healthy. I can better enjoy interactions with my family and friends when I’m healthy.
Again the same is true with my spirit. Being spiritually healthy provides a higher quality of spiritual life than being unhealthy. I feel better and can be more active for God when I’m spiritually healthy. I can have more fun following God’s lead as I interact with people when I’m spiritually healthy.
So… maybe I don’t want that inner voice to shut up after all.
1 Corinthians 10:23 Amplified Bible (AMP) All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].
1 Tim 4:7b Amplified Bible (AMP) … discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (keeping yourself spiritually fit).
Romans 7:23 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body.