Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I’m working with the 3rd & 4th graders at church on a drama they helped write based on the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. We talked about different ideas of temptation and concepts of evil or the devil. I played them “Save Me” by Dave Matthews and explained how, in that song, the devil is just some guy. Any old guy. You and me, even. One student asked, “But what does it mean that he just keeps saying ‘Save Me?’” I said, “I think this guy is saying, ‘You’re God, you’re all powerful. All I have to do is believe in you and it’s all okay. Well, if you’re God, then you can make me believe in you, right? I’m not asking you to perform miracles or anything. Just make me believe.’ And that’s exactly what the devil said to Jesus in the desert.” (The kids then turned around and knocked my socks of by relating their own experiences and brainstorming a drama about a girl who’s new in school (the ‘wilderness’) and keeps getting pushed by the cool kids to go against what she knows is right. I may have written the dialogue in the end, but they get all the credit.)

In my recovery circle, fellows occasionally refer to “my addict,” that part of our own mind that makes it impossible for us to moderate. That actually revels in our addiction. I have heard: “My addict would just as soon have me dead,” and “No matter how long I’m abstinent, my addict is out in the hall doing push-ups, just waiting for an opportunity to take over as soon as I let it.” It’s not that I see my addictive tendencies as separate entity, but as a product of my own human imperfections run amok. I think therein lies the truest and most potent form of evil.

I don’t have some little red dude with horns and a pitchfork perched on my shoulder, encouraging me to make bad decisions. If only it were that obvious. Instead, I have my own voice at the back of my mind, quietly making insinuations that somehow I’m getting the shaft. Wondering why it is that I can’t just kick back and enjoy the ride. Telling myself that by this point, after all the work I’ve done, life should be easy. What’s all this with kids with Aspergers and ADHD and issues at school, a husband who’s underappreciated and undercompensated at work, a slew of money-sucking home and car maintenance issues looming on the horizon, a scad of commitments and responsibilities that I somehow allowed to build up when I swore I wasn’t going to spread myself too thin again?

That little piece of my brain tells me I have every right to be disappointed and self-righteously indignant. That obviously God has failed me, despite all that I have done for him, because clearly, I deserve some compensation for being such a wonderful person. That it’s good and right to wish for financial stability (Hah! Let’s be honest: inexhaustible wealth), happy children (more like: academic prodigies, star athletes and the most popular kids in school), sufficient rest (no need to go anywhere or do anything I don’t want to, ever), and recognition for my service (humanitarian of the year awards and glowing accolades from every segment of society). And that if I don’t have these things, then damn it, somebody owes me.

“I don’t need to you stop the sunshine. I don’t need you to turn water into wine. I don’t need you to fly. I’m just askin’ you to save me,” says the devil in the Dave Matthews song. It’s the same exact thing.

Whatever you may or may not believe about the existence of evil in the world, I think I’ve seen it. And it doesn’t necessarily appear hideous and horrifying. It’s warm and friendly and makes you feel like you’re the greatest person in the universe, supports you in your righteous indignation, encourages you in your self-absorption, affirms you for your oh-so-deserved indulgences, and forgives you when you throw up your hands and stop trying because, after all, you can’t save the whole world all at once. And in the end, we’re the ones looking hideous and horrifying, even to ourselves, and the subtle instigator in our heads thinks that’s the funniest part of all.

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