But I've encountered it three times in the past week -- in Mark Galli's book, Jesus, Mean and Wild; in my aunt Dian Wells Matlock's book, Come Walk with Me to Glory, and at the kind- of- hipster- but- also- unironically- evangelical church I attended Sunday morning -- so I feel like I should try and work out who I'm warring against, why I need to, and how I can do so without alienating the people I love or feeling like a fraud, given that I usually see the world as pretty good, not a place in which I need to make waves, let alone wage war.
I suppose, when I think about it, that maybe some aspects of the world could justify language about war. My ability to eat sushi and drink lattes in a world where people are dying because they do not have water, for example, seems like a deep wrong, something I should be fighting against, perhaps by not eating out twice a week and then worrying if it's "right" for me to donate money to the Fistula Project or ADRA when I'm about to borrow a large chunk of it to go to school.
More immediate and insistent are the often-debilitating fears that I am worthless, that terrible things are going to happen to me, that life – all life but particularly my life -- is meaningless. I suspect that many of the terrible things people do grow out of that kind of darkness, and I feel obligated to wonder if an infinite God makes distinctions between sins like turning a blind eye to Him and the work He'd ask you to do and sins like cheating on your taxes or your spouse, or directly hurting another person.
He must, right? Obviously, my bulimia wasn't as bad as if I'd killed someone; obviously, enjoying a meal out isn't as bad as if I were taking away someone's food myself. If I am kind of wasting the life and resources I've been given, well, it's not like I'm out killing people or doing any other really bad things, right?
But there's always going to be someone whose sins have more visible effects on people than my own. Cheat on your wife? Hey look, there's some gay guys who want to get married! Bitch incessantly about TFA? Hey look, there's someone even more negative and snarky than you! Ignore the needs of others? Did you know that Mitt Romney pays less taxes than I do?
Look, my biggest discomfort with the concept of spiritual warfare is that it's the kind of idea I gravitated towards when I was a kid and later came to suspect was kind of emotionally unhealthy and black and white. But that may have more to do with the way I processed information at twelve, at seventeen, than with the concept itself.
Things don't have to be either/or; most things, I think, are both/and. My most immediate, pressing commitment is to my child, and part of that commitment is to model love and faith and hope to him, to guide him to become someone who thinks of others and sees himself in a relationship with the world. I have to work out how to relate to God as well as to parent him lovingly. I have to have faith that those things aren't in conflict, that when I want to leave him at home to go Help People, that's my ego and talking and not so much my God.
Similarly, I can value and care for myself and still admit that I need to be changed. I can believe I am loved without having to torment myself over whether or not I "deserve" to be loved. I can admit that I often don't do the things I wish I did, that I often fall short of who I want to be, and see that as a human limit rather than a unique and personal flaw. And I can hate fighting and still affirm that there are things that are worth fighting for: my health and sanity, my marriage and my child, and the kind of world I can imagine, the world I believe God is calling me to work for.