When I was about six, my cousin would sometimes come over to play. I really loved my cousin, and we had TONS of fun together, but sometimes we could really get on each other’s nerves. I suppose it was because we were both a bit strong-willed—or at least I was.
One day, my cousin and I began to fight. Being the sweet, lovely natured child that I was, I decided to end the argument in a thoughtful, direct way. I shoved my cousin in the coat closet and locked the door. Being the highly intelligent child that I was, it never occurred to me that my mother and aunt were sitting fifteen feet away drinking coffee in the kitchen. Naturally, my cousin began to yell, and my mother and aunt came to investigate.
At that exact moment, I realized things were about to get extremely sticky…
After freeing my cousin, my mother took me firmly by the arm and demanded to know why I had done it. In my sweet little six-year-old brain, I ran through a mental list of excuses, but seeing the fire in my mother’s eye, I knew that none of them would be acceptable. Clutching my hands beseechingly before me, I lifted my innocent, doe eyes to hers and did the only thing that I thought could get me out of the hot seat—I played the religious card. Sighing sadly, I said in a soft, mournful voice, “I’m so sorry, Mommy. The devil made me do it.”
! ! !
Those three exclamation points express the lightning-fast three seconds it took for my mother to turn me over her knee and give me a spanking. Afterwards, she looked at me sternly and said, “The next time the devil tells you to do something, tell him to shut up and go home!”
Needless to say, I got the point.
I wasn’t an exceptionally brilliant child, but I was smart enough never to pull the “devil card” on my mother again. I knew that blaming things on the devil was an excuse that would NEVER be acceptable in her eyes.
As I grew up, I faced different challenges, but the lesson I learned at age six stayed with me. No matter what curve balls were thrown my way, I knew I was responsible for how I reacted to them. I was responsible for my own actions, and I needed to own up to them. Unfortunately, sometimes the lessons you learn tend to become blurred over time. Although I never blatantly said the devil made me do anything, I began to let a defeatist attitude creep into my thinking. If I blew my diet, it was because I wasn’t “strong-willed” enough to keep on it. If I allowed bitterness to take root in my soul, it was because the other person had been mean and I wasn’t able to overcome it. If I allowed angry words to spill out of my lips, it was because of my genetic makeup and my human nature. I began to use every excuse in the book. I began to see myself as a helpless victim who was unable to battle the horrible things around me. In essence, I was saying by my attitude and actions that the devil was calling the shots.
One day, as I was mourning over another defeat in my life, I began to see a picture in my mind. It was of a huge, strong bull being pulled toward a pit by two tiny little creatures. The bull looked limp and defeated—and that puzzled me. I knew the bull was incredibly strong, I could see the muscles rippling beneath his skin. I knew the bull could defend himself—he had strong, sharp horns. I couldn’t understand why the bull didn’t stand up and shove the silly little creatures away. Even as mused, I felt God’s voice down deep in my spirit. He simply said, “Why look down on the bull when you are doing the same thing?”
Sitting up straight in my chair, I blinked.
Suddenly, John 8:36 came to my mind, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Right afterwards, I remembered John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
As I sat there, I remembered my cousin and the closet. I remembered my mother’s instructions, “The next time the devil tells you to do something, tell him to shut up and go home!” As the memories echoed through my mind, I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my own actions. My diet wasn’t broken because I didn’t have enough will power. My diet was broken because I wanted a cookie and decided that instant gratification was more desirable than skinny jeans. I wasn’t bitter because people had been mean—I was bitter because I liked feeling as if I were better than the people who hurt me and because I was trying to force the whole world to acknowledge my poor hurt feelings. I didn’t lose my temper because of genetics; I lost it because I didn’t want to expend the effort to control it. The devil may have been tempting me to live badly, but I was allowing him do it. I was the who was eating the cookies, rehashing hurtful events, and flying off the handle. I was the one to blame.
That afternoon, I found a picture of a bull in a magazine. I cut it out and taped it to my bedroom wall. Every time I looked at that bull, I reminded myself who I was. I was a strong child of the Lord. I was someone who was capable of tackling the evil tendencies of my human nature and defeating them. I was someone who had been created to live in VICTORY. I knew that God had given me the Bible, a strong mind, and a strong will. I just need to use them to defend myself. I didn’t have to lie down like a weak, pitiful, defenseless thing and be dragged wherever the devil wanted to drag me. I could stand up, toss my bindings aside, and walk free. All I had to do was DECIDE TO DO IT.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11