If you read me even sporadically, you know that I touch on touchier subjects more often than not. It’s not, contrary to what a friend guessed a few weeks ago, that I enjoy conflict. I don’t mind it, but I definitely don’t seek it out intentionally.
Bet you wouldn’t guess that, reading some of what I write here, huh? But it’s true. I’m fairly mild mannered in person. I mean sure, I have a bit of a temper and a bit of a thirst for justice, but I’m not a street fighter or anything. And I don’t generally chat up strangers irl about the stuff I talk about here, not unless we’re connecting on a serious level and I’ve “won the right to be heard,” so to speak.
All that being said, it’s true that I do get into some crazy conversations with people in the comments section from time to time. And it’s mostly fine. I filter out the really insane stuff for my benefit and for yours, but from time to time some crazy slips through.
It’s because we’re talking about real stuff though, and real hearts, and real lives. And people have real reactions to that. Which is good – it’s how we were designed.
But. There are moments when it definitely isn’t pleasant to be moderating comments or fielding emails, and I’ve asked myself more than once why I’m here, why I’m doing this, what the point is. And I say this without an ounce of pretension or bravado, but it’s for Him.
And guess what? He has an enemy.
We have a mutual enemy, as it turns out. And I’ve been doing a little research in the area of spiritual warfare and trying to put some best practices in place, because there is mad resistance to anyone, in whatever capacity they are serving, who is trying to do His will.
So the exorcist. Yes, I had the chance to speak via phone with an actual, practicing exorcist, and he’s about as down to earth and normal as you could imagine, except for the battling demons part of the equation. But we didn’t talk specifically about that. What we did discuss, however, was how best one ought to proceed when exposing oneself to the unknown and to the unfamiliar, particularly on the internet.
He made a very good point when he explained that the internet is a boundary-less place, and that whatever we put out online is accessible to a vast and perhaps unintended audience.
He asked me bluntly “what do you do to prepare before you write, what is your method?” and I very stupidly replied something along the lines of “making sure no kids are currently digging through the trash/playing in the toilet” but what he meant was, what was I doing to spiritually prepare?
And truthfully? Not much.
I mean, I was praying on my own about other stuff most days, but it hadn’t actually occurred to me to ask God what I should be saying, or whether I should be saying it, or to protect me and our family in the writing of it, or to direct it to the intended audience.
Basically I’d been operating as an independent contractor. Which is no bueno, because I am a finite weakling here with limited resources, and I need to be tapping into my Boss’ line of credit before I embark on the big jobs, you know?
Anyway, thanks to father’s very sane and decidedly un-dramatic advice, I’ve been trying to pray more over the things I say and the words I put out into the word, asking that the Lord takes them where He wants them, and begging His protection for my children, our marriage, and our family.
Because you know what? We have a real enemy in Satan. He is a liar and a deceiver, and while it’s oh-so-popular to pretend he doesn’t exist and that he’s an allegory or a fairy tale, he’s not.
He’s a real being, and he hates us.
He hates me and he hates you, and more than anything He hates our God.
So, some practical steps for those of us who live any part of our lives online, which is roughly most of humanity at this point:
– limit your social media usage to what is necessary and life-giving for your state in life. This will look different for everyone, but we all know when we’ve gotten that nauseated how-long-have-I-been-scrolling??? feeling. Stop before you hit that point. It’s a distraction from your real life, and from the work He has for you.
– pray over your pictures/blog posts/tweets before you launch them into the world. Pray that they’ll be directed to the audience God intends for them, and that they’ll be serving His will. Pray especially about sharing images or videos of your kids, that they won’t fall into the wrong hands or be used for evil purposes. Pray about whether to share them, period. I have some regretsies about how visible our kids have been online, but that’s part of growing up as a millennial parent, amiright?
– maintain a personal prayer life. You can’t give what you don’t have.
– Don’t expose yourself – either knowingly or even unintentionally, to anything of the occult. Poison is still poison, even when it’s mixed into orange juice. And even if you didn’t mix it yourself.
One of my favorite images of spiritual combat is telling satan where he belongs – in hell – and saying it with a well-placed Hail Mary or even a whole Rosary. We also make frequent use of holy water, blessed salt, the miraculous medal, and the St. Michael prayer. My kids like to yell “poop on the devil,” which, while less eloquent, is probably pretty effective too.
St. John Paul II told us:
“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”
And the St. Michael prayer:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and the snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou oh prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.