A few years ago Ewan McGregor played Jesus in the movie “Last Days in the Desert”. This movie was about the devil’s temptation of the Christ in the desert, and, in what I think was a super brilliant move, the director had Ewan play both Jesus andthe devil. I find this marvelous because it portrays a Truth about us all: Both the Spirit of Christ (or Lightness if you prefer) and the spirit of the devil (or darkness) live in each of us. The problem is, it’s not always easy to tell the two apart.
I believe Jesus is the epitome of what it means to be human in all our amazingness, so it seems to me the story of his temptation can give us some pointers. In Matthew 4.1-11 we see three temptations. The Christ had been fasting for forty days, so first the devil tries to entice him to feed himself by turning stones into bread. Next, the evil one attempts to get the good one to leap off the top of the temple, because angels will miraculously stop his fall. Finally, the devil offers to make Jesus the ruler of all the people in the world … if he’ll worship the satan!
While the details of this tale aren’t particularly relevant to us, I think the nature of the temptations is profoundly germane to you and I. The spirit of the devil/darkness attempts to seduce us into being self-reliant, special, and powerful in all the worst ways, but disguised with “good” reasons.
My mom and dad fought a good bit when I was a kid. I remember harsh words, slammed doors, and a good bit of yelling and screaming. Even though they got divorced as I entered middle school, I learned and internalized that emotions were bad. Relational intimacy was volatile and dangerous. So, for “good” reasons I succumbed to the darkness by becoming quite self-reliant and detached from my heart.
Years later, when I was in the Air Force and getting ready to deploy to fight in our 2003 invasion of Iraq, in response to a friend’s question/concern that I can’t recall, I said something like: “I’m happy to go help rid the world of evil”. Frequently, during this time, my fellow airmen and I would watch recorded footage of us blowing up or shooting the “bad” guys; and like most everyone else I would ooh, ah, and cheer. I’d bought into the devil’s lie that Americans are special, which makes us more important, in the right, and valuable than others.
These days, when I write these blogs, post something I think’s profound on social media, or ponder getting my book manuscript published, I find part of me REALLY wanting to influence, be read by, and receive “applause” from LOTS of people. Power over others comes in many flavors, which allows the darkness to whisper uniquely “sweet” temptations to each of us.
Is it just me, or does our culture emphasize and indoctrinate us with the devil’s path of self-reliance, specialness, and power? Don’t get me wrong; I think there’s plenty to be celebrated about our culture, so perhaps society is much like us, infused with both the spirit of darkness and the Spirit of Lightness. But I digress. 🙂
While the seductive voice of the darkness within us seems sweet, it inevitably leads to suffering for others and us. The soothing summons of the Christ in us, though, brings beauty, harmony, and bliss. It leads to more Love for more people. It increases thriving and flourishing. The Light is all about relationship, kindness, care, vulnerability, and courage.
The more I recognize the same spirit of the devil influencing the person I dislike or hate is also inme, while also realizing the identical Spirit of Christ shining through people I admire likewise fills and flows through me, the better things go … and I bet the same is true for you! I’d sum it up like this, while the darkness within tempts us to be self-reliant, special, and powerful, the Lightness inside invites us to be communal and connected, humble, and caring and compassionate. What are your thoughts and experiences?
Grace and peace,