The Arena

I often hear the expressions “the mind is a battlefield” or “fought on the battlefield of our minds.” My mind isn’t so much a battlefield as it is the Hunger Games Arena, and my subconscious is the Capital. My subconscious lays a complex series of traps and triggers in the most innocuous places, so just when I think I can relax, BAM! – horrifically mutated dogs bearing the faces of fears and memories. A familiar voice or song that reminds me of previously lost battles. Or a dream that isn’t quite a nightmare, but is filled with enough emotional triggers to put in me a funk the next day.

My subconscious does not play fair. It is tricky and manipulative. An outright lie is easy to detect and refute. For example, I don’t struggle anymore with the thought, “I could have done more to save my marriage.” Because, you know what, I COULDN’T have. Anyone who has been remotely close to the situation will confirm to me – you did all you could. That is any easy lie to put away. Here’s what my mind does instead, “You did everything you could, and it wasn’t good enough. You aren’t good enough.” Oh, how that thought haunts me!

Maybe I dropped the ball on something at work, or planned a lesson that I thought would be really great and it flopped. Maybe there’s one student that I just cannot get through to. My subconscious takes these instances and whispers, “See, you can’t even do this right. You are only good at one thing, and you aren’t even all that good at that.” In the arena of my mind, the enemy is distortion, not falsities.

Distortion is a powerful enemy. Distortion creeps in slowly, secretively, and waits. Distortion patiently sows seeds of doubt. He senses when our minds and emotions are the weakest, and then attacks. Distortion starts with a truth, and uses that truth to convince us of a lie. He then builds an assault on Absolute Truth. Distortion takes our minds from, “I messed up in this situation,” to, “I mess everything up all the time,” to, “I’m a screw-up,” to “God made a mistake when He made me like this.” Or, maybe he uses this progression instead, “I really got lucky that everything worked out.” “Most of the time, things just work out for me.” “I do really well working things out for myself.” “I don’t need God because I can handle my stuff just fine.”

I think Paul must have fought these battles fairly regularly himself, because he addresses the mind often in his letters. I wonder if he was haunted by memories of his past – persecuting and jailing Christians, supporting executions, bringing fear to families. Regardless, he gives specific directions for dealing with our minds:

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 – For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Because the progression of distortion is so slow and so complex, but the time we start doubting Absolutes, we often struggle identifying the original source of doubt. And we struggle to trust God as a consequence. I believe this is why Scripture repeatedly tells us to be vigilant and on guard, not just with our actions, but also with our hearts and minds. We are told how to fight the battle, how to recover when we falter, and train for the next attack. Ultimately, it isn’t about whether or not the “odds are in your favor,” it is about Who and what you take into the Arena with you.

I am so thankful that I am not in the arena alone or unequipped.

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