I’ve been a woman at war. Fighting deadlines and expectations, arguing with myself, and generally conflictive. Wanting to do the right thing, so unsure what the right thing is. I want to do more, be more, see more, and rest more. I’ve been reminded that in this world we live within the constraints of time and energy.
I took a step back, or at least I tried. I decided I needed to feed different things, fill my mind with better thoughts. So I started reading The Imitation of Christ a couple of weeks ago. It has been, in fact, a different thing. There is a stark simplicity and clear direction in Kempis’s writings that is unusual today. He tells things as he sees them. He admonishes. He tells us to judge ourselves. He leaves little room for disagreement or insincerity.
Strangely enough, it is regenerative. It brings me back to places of peace and rest, the search for the eternal and the good. It reminds me that this life is very short, and what will last is often what is unseen. It takes me out of my little circle of hurry and slows my mind. And the war diminishes.
In fact, from this distance the war becomes more clear. I am not a little individual fighting a little battle. I am in the middle of a war that spans all time, the war for the hearts and lives of men and women. The war isn’t about my priorities or ideas, the war is about eternity. It’s about God’s priority in our lives and the spaces and times the enemy is trying to wrest control of. And as each of us chose priorities and worship, the battlefield is changed.
I should have known this long ago. And maybe I did. I first reacted as a baby that cried when the witch doctor next door chanted. I saw it as a young teenager who was afraid of the dark. I faced it when we were newly married and the street by our apartment was turned into a bad party scene. I experienced it living in suburbia and becoming aware of the spirits that drive us. These experiences have increasingly been realizations of the strength and power of God and the importance of prayer and obedience.
Kempis encourages us to imitate Christ in total humility. He reminds us that what matters is our hearts. He calls us to deep surrender and constant obedience. And he explains how God promises that these are the paths that lead to peace and joy. And I find that the war inside subsides when I take time to read the Word of God and ask Him how it applies to my day and how it answers my questions. Amazingly, it is always applicable, always helpful. Sometimes it replies to my questions, and sometimes it answers the questions I didn’t know to ask. But always, it stills the war inside.