Wednesday, March 4, 2009


When I talk about faith, it is easy to talk about prayer, and grace, social justice and community. The devil is more of a stumper. It doesn't help that after a childhood of growing in Tempe, AZ---home of the ASU Sun Devils---my mental image of the devil is Sparky, the madcap demon spiking it to the opposing team.

Hardly the Prince of Darkness. Sparky is known for doing push-ups for each point scored at the football games. Thus, he has the least defined biceps of all college mascots.

An interesting side note--when Pope John Paul came to ASU stadium to do a huge mass (I was in Jr. High, so it must have been 1988-89), the university people covered up all of the images of Sparky with white cloth, and renamed the stadium, for one day only, "Sun Angel Stadium."

One more sidebar, and then I'll get back to my point. Do you remember the ending of U2's concert film, Rattle and Hum? The part that is in color, after the entire movie was in black and white? The part filmed in Tempe, AZ at Sun Devil Stadium? Well, I do. That was my big film debut. I played the role of "massive crowd."

Back to my point. Talking about the devil is difficult, because the idea of the devil has become a joke. People who are with you when you talk about helping others and trusting God cloud over when you talk about Satan. It's hard to take the idea seriously, which is precisely how the devil wants it. By minimizing the idea that evil exists, we become powerless, ostriches with our heads in the sand.

So, let me share with you one of the more powerful things I have heard. God works through difficulty, the devil uses discouragement. This is a (possibly incorrect) paraphrase from my pastor, one that I truly believe. Bad things happen. God creates moments of grace out of darkness, while the devil uses dark moments to tear us down.

I believe that the tiny, negative voice in my head--the voice that says, "You're doing a shitty job with the boys," or "You are fooling yourself if you think you can go anywhere as a writer," or "Your friends don't really like you," or "You're not as funny/pretty/smart/interesting as you think you are," comes from Satan. I believe he is using my difficult circumstances--consistent lack of sleep, loneliness, dissatisfaction, fear---to drive me away from God. I know this is true because when I begin to pray, or hum a song, or call a friend, or read Scripture, the voice goes away. I have taken away its power.

I am more fearful about publishing this post than anything else I have ever written because I am fearful that people will think that I believe in the power of Sparky. Yet, I am swallowing my fear because evil is at work in my life, in all of our lives. It isn't a horned creature with a pitchfork, it is the small, sinister thoughts, which attempt to tear apart all that is good, right, just, and holy in my life.


Anonymous said...

You nailed that one. I'm giving John an copy tonight. Mom

Paul said...

Great post, Nancy. It's a hard topic to write about when the general consensus (secularly and in liberal Christianity) is that it's a bunch of hooey to frighten small children. Or that it's just a metaphor for psychological issues internal to ourselves. Satan works in those ways that you describe, just like he works in lying to people through ideology that it's ok to cut off someone's head, or ok to turn a blind eye to another's need. It's not popular to say that evil exists. But popularity doesn't change reality. Only our perception of it.