The Never-Say-Die Beast

The human being is a wily creature, slow to change and stubborn in its dark ways. Tends to hide. Emotionally unstable. Prone to feel lonely even if surrounded by love. Oftentimes deceived by confused thoughts. Loves what will hurt it. Prefers captivity to freedom. Chooses the wrong path even when surrounded by wise counsel. Capable of demise in any instant. Easily distracted. More fragile than a dandelion. Prone to quickly forget Truth.

I thank God that I am reminded of this each and every day on the front lines of this battle field that takes place in my own living room, front lawn, during kitchen clean-up and on road trips. Sometimes when we are surrounded by polished, polite people who have grown up in a good educational system we tend to forget the very — oh, very, very! – real struggle between Good and Evil in every single one of us that rages on all day every day. We are fooled into thinking that everything is “okay,” that everyone is “okay.”

The human race is not okay, and until we are awakened to that fact we cannot understand our need for a Representative before the Perfect, Just God. We just think I will try harder next time. Or They’re not ‘okay’, but I am.

If many people have a tornado of sin, shame, secrets and sadness raging on in the inside, hidden from everyone else but themselves, our home is full of tornados on the outside. We have given up: here there is no faking that everything is okay.

We are sin-sick, ailing, deceived, lonely, dangerous, and we admit it. Oh, yes, there are beautiful sparks of Light, Joy, Truth, Triumph, Thanksgiving — and they are so sweet! But between those glorious moments takes place the most intense of battles whether we’re suited up and well hydrated or not.

She stole again? Why does she look me in the face, smiling, if we both know she’s lying? Lord, protect us from those who come only to deceive and divide! How on earth did she receive such an inappropriate love letter from him – she doesn’t even have breasts yet and still plays with teddy bears! Just confess already! Lord, forgive me for disciplining him with such anger rather than with firm, gentle wisdom. Our son had that, that and that happen to him when he was just a little boy?! What do you mean our eleven-year-old daughter used to watch pornography with her six-year-old SPECIAL NEEDS brother on her mom’s cell phone? What are you hiding in your dresser drawer? She stole food from the kitchen again? Ok, who’s lying this time? We can’t trust any of you! Forgive me, Lord, for my anxiousness; I trust you will provide. She’s really bawling and saying that we don’t love her after all we’ve done? Lord, grant peace over our home and in our hearts!

If anyone needs a wake-up call about the true state of humanity laid bare, come visit our home. You’ll be reminded quite quickly. Our home seems to be a magnet for spiritual battles and layings-bare of all kinds. If other people can pretend they don’t lie, cheat and steal or that they aren’t deeply wounded, on the verge of self-destructing – or if they think worry, bitterness and impatience are ‘acceptable’ sins, personality types even – here there is no pretending. It’s more like a giant clashing of Good versus Evil several times a day. A bit hard on the nerves, but at least we’re in tune with reality.

One thing the Lord is teaching me over and over again – about every 12-15 minutes, in fact — is that raising/parenting/guiding children who have sprung from someone else’s womb and been through a tumbler of some of the most damaging experiences the World has to offer is a lot like full-contact wrestling with a never-say-die beast that doesn’t care if you’re exhausted or in need of a water break.

But actually, that same battle rages on in every corner of society. Sometimes it just happens to be more visible in a struggling third world country like Honduras with a catastrophically high murder rate than in an affluent society with a fairly dependable criminal justice system that knows where to hide its trash.

In our daily life here we see mothers who turn to prostitution in order to feed their kids. Young men who kill for sport — and don’t go to prison. People who cut through chain-link fences just to steal a pair of used girls’ tennis shoes. Divine rescues made only to then be put to the constant test by the forces of darkness. Twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls who have ‘married’ adult men and have their babies. Confused young men who rob Darwin and I at knife point while we’re on a date in the park. Mothers feeding Coca-Cola in baby bottles to their infants. Young girls receiving rape-threats from her neighbors who happen to be gang members. Preteens who weep for fear of sleeping in their own bed. Lives that quite literally hang in the balance between Life and Death.

But it’s more than that – the tremendous forces that are working inside of our environment and kids are also at work in me. In you. My struggle is just more hidden because I know how to behave in public and our 10-year-old daughter doesn’t. You’ve been taught how to be politically correct, independent, self-reliant, to neatly re-name your sins but our 14-year-old son hasn’t. My sins are the ‘acceptable’ ones whereas hers are the loud, screaming kinds. Here we know who the prostitutes and drug lords are; in wealthier countries there is a thicker layer of fog, deception. What’s the difference between a middle-class extramarital love affair and a mom who lets her kids watch pornography? It’s all sin. We’re all condemned.

As I am put in the role to discipline, correct, and guide untrained, hurting kids hour after hour, I become more aware of my own need for Someone to do that for me. To discipline the rebel in me, to tame the never-say-die beast that surges up time and again. I cannot rebuke the little girl pouting in front of me for her overwhelming laziness or impatience or harsh tone without at least questioning whether I am guilty of the same. When I am shocked that our child lied again, I can choose to sweep past my own inner liar, pushing her to one side and letting her keep wreaking her quiet havoc, covering her up with some pious excuse, or I can confront her just as I confronted the dishonest child in the schoolroom. Humble myself and ask for forgiveness just as I expect he will do with his sibling. Ask God to cleanse me of the darkness that still roams in my heart just as I advise my daughter to do.

In this home of screamers and criers and liars and thieves we are scrappers, clinging desperately to faith in a God who will have mercy on us because of our earnest belief in the life, death and resurrection of His Son. The details and transformations are worked out with time and not without great struggle, but our day-to-day battle is very much just that: a battle of cosmic proportions, of choosing Freedom in Christ rather than staying in bondage to Fear, of pleading God to work in and through us in spite of ourselves rather than adopting the futile “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can” attitude of self-reliance, of being confronted relentlessly with the choice to love or to hate, to forgive or to stay bitter, to choose the way of Christ or the way of the World, to choose to believe God and accept that we are loved or to live miserably believing the lie that we’re not. To obey God or obey the never-say-die beast within each of us.

A few days ago our 14-year-old son Brayan, who joined our family last February, said to us as we all sat talking around the small wooden table in our living room during an informal family meeting, “I was talking with [a guy friend my age] while we were at the river the other day and I told him that if I hadn’t met y’all, who knows what would have become of me. I might have become a murderer.”

I stared at him, momentarily swept up in one of those rare, precious moments of getting to see a glimpse of the fruits of your labor. Darwin responded, “Brayan, it’s Christ. Meeting us is not what has changed your life; it’s Christ.” With that Brayan smiled, recognizing that in Pa and Ma there are just as many mistakes, sins, and struggles as there are in his young life, although they take on different form. It is not we who have saved him or saved anybody; it is the Saver of Men who has come to live within us who reaches out with tendrils of light into the dark heart of this world.

Christ within us is the hope of Glory. And nothing else.

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