What if your real enemies are all inside you?
Let me confess something: I’ve been running short on hope as of late. I won’t rehearse the reasons why; you know them, if you look around.
I’ve also been wrestling with peace lately, which, well, is counterintuitive. But as much as I am reminded that I am called to be an agent of peace, I find myself not feeling a whole lot of it myself. Which makes it hard to be an ambassador of peace to others.
So reflecting on the readings for the fourth week of Advent, I was looking for a message of hope, and I was looking for a fair shot at peace.
In the first reading, 2 Samuel 7, one line jumped out at me, out of context. God tells the prophet Nathan to tell David, “I will give you rest from all of your enemies.” And while I don’t normally think of myself as an enemy-having kind of guy, that promise grabbed hold of me and promised me hope and peace. You just have to reframe who or what your enemies are.
If I wanted to date myself without disclosing by age, I’d tell you that when I was a teen, Red Dawn was a really popular movie in my crowd. I grew up with a pretty strong “There are good guys and bad guys” narrative, thanks to the Cold War. I have plenty of friends who still hold to that sense that, in the end, the children of light and the children of darkness are two distinctly different groups of people (though, oddly, I’ve never met someone who believes they are in the latter group). But those kinds of enemies, really, you don’t want rest from, so much as to kick their butts.
The real enemies, for me, they’re all inside. Sure, sometimes they take the face of people I know. But even then, it’s not the people themselves that are my enemies; it’s the caricature of them I build in my head and heart that move in and take up residence without doing the dishes, living in my space and making a mess. Those pretendimies in my head are who sows discord and make peace hard to nurture in my soul.
But most enemies don’t look like other people; if anything, they look like reflections of myself. Impatience. Wanting to have things my way. Feeling responsible for fixing the world myself. Needing to understand everything on my own. Creating peace through my own remarkable charms. Those are the things that sit in my head and my heart and my soul and just don’t shut up.
Maybe yours are different. Maybe they’re perfectionism. Or maybe your enemy is needing the approval of others. Whatever it is, my guess is that you, like me, have things inside you that steal your peace and rob you of hope.
If God is offering to give me rest from all *those* enemies, now, that would be good news to behold. That is the Advent rest that I need desperately right now.
And if it seems impossible that God could really give you a break from those voices in your head that bedevil you, take heart: it’s also in this week’s Gospel that Gabriel promises Mary that nothing will be impossible for God.
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