As she asked me the questions, I felt my mind become clouded. My heart was growing increasingly defensive as I listened to her. In an instant, I was angry and upset. I kept my mouth quiet as my heart raged, knowing I didn’t have anything good or kind to say.
In those moments, she felt like the enemy; or at the very least, on a different team, the opposing team. I felt betrayed and foolish for ever trusting her.
[Hunger Games related spoilers ahead; read at your own risk.]
In Catching Fire (the second Hunger Games book/movie), one of the biggest tensions for Katniss is who she can trust, as she fights to keep herself and Peeta alive. As much as she would prefer to go it solo, it simply isn’t an option. There are too many obstacles and enemies. They need allies.
As she heads into the arena for the second time, her coach, Haymitch says this cryptic phrase: “Remember who the real enemy is.” It comes up again, in a moment where Katniss feels betrayed and has to make a critical choice about who to trust. Unbeknownst to Katniss, there is a plot to start a full blown rebellion and save her. What is happening right in front of her isn’t all there is. Far from it.
The enemy is who put them in the arena in the first place, who intends harm for all of them.
I’ve had these words echoing in my head a lot lately: “Remember who the real enemy is.”
In the moments when my emotions are loud and my mind is clouded, I want to fight against whoever is in front of me in the arena. I want to fight whoever is in my path. It is hard work to look beyond what I’m experiencing to remember who the real enemy is. It is overwhelmingly difficult, when I’m being stung by tracker jackers or darts of discomfort and hurt and grief. It is hard to remember when I’m tired or hungry or overstimulated and full of loud feelings. I want to lash out in impatience at my daughter. I want to respond with frustration and angry words. I am abrupt and all business with my husband, leaving behind kindness and grace.
All I want to do is fight the person in front of me, quickly forgetting who the enemy is.
But the truth is, they aren’t my enemy.
My enemy isn’t the person who slows me down or does things inefficiently.
My enemy isn’t the person who hurts me with their words.
My enemy isn’t the person who thinks differently or that I can’t understand.
My enemy isn’t the person who votes for the person I don’t think would make a good president.
My enemy isn’t the person who I feel slighted by.
My enemy isn’t the one who forgets me.
My enemy isn’t the person who speaks badly of me.
My enemy isn’t the person who gets on my nerves or pushes my buttons.
My enemy isn’t the one who misunderstands me.
My enemy isn’t the one who excludes me.
My enemy is their enemy, whether they realize it or not.
He is all our enemy.
He is the liar, the murderer, the thief of all that is good and life-giving. (John 10:10)
And the only way I get to fight this enemy is with the one who has already defeated him.
I can’t do it alone, even though I want to. As much as Katniss and I have this in common, it simply doesn’t work to fly solo. There are too many moving pieces. There is too much at stake. There is simply too much for me to do alone. I am not enough. I have to have help.
Katniss would prefer to team up with just Peeta. At Haymitch’s insistence, she agrees to a few others, but the ultimate result is that she ends up with many more allies than she wanted. She’s teamed up with people who she doesn’t like and who she would never have chosen for herself. It honestly feels like that sometimes for me. When I start to look around and decide credibility or trust based on looks or feelings, I always get into trouble. There are people I wouldn’t ever choose to be on my team. I always start turning them into the enemy, instead of remembering who it really is that I’m fighting. I look at the outward appearance instead of looking past that, to what the Lord sees them as. They aren’t enemies. Perhaps they are deceived or perhaps they are my allies. But they aren’t my enemy.
There’s someone in my life who is pretty angry with me. When I’m only looking at appearances and my feelings, I’d like to cast this someone in the role of my enemy. But I can’t. I can’t because the Holy Spirit has shown my heart that she is deceived. She’s believing things that aren’t true. I’ve been given the image of a wounded animal. I recall what it was like when the kitten I’d raised, came home wounded and hurt. He went from someone who trusted me to someone who forgot who I was. All he could see was his hurt and pain, and in that place, he scratched me. The wound was shallow, but the pain was deep. I could hardly believe that he was lashing out at me, believing things that weren’t true. And as I see the anger, I see past it to the hurt and suffering in her own heart. She isn’t my enemy. We have the same enemy.
It feels pretty clear that there is no middle ground.
Life or death.
For or against.
Blessing or cursing.
We are each responsible for ourselves, for our own lives. We will answer for what we choose to do with the time that it is given us.
But it is the Lord’s job to be the judge. It isn’t mine to determine the condition of someone else’s heart. And it isn’t mine to decide if they are worth of love and forgiveness and grace. That is the Lord’s decision, and he has offered it to that person. He has offered it to them, and to them, and to them. And he has offered it to me.
Today, I’m preaching to myself.
I’m reminding my own heart that my fight is not against flesh and blood.
When I find myself irritated or angry, hurt or frustrated, misunderstood or forgotten, I’m speaking this truth to myself: remember who the real enemy is.
Remember who it is you’re fighting.
Pause in the midst of your screaming emotions to remind yourself what is true.
What you’re experiencing isn’t all there is.
Ask for help from your allies.
Ask for help from Jesus.
You’re not the judge.
There is grace and forgiveness for them.
There is grace and forgiveness for you.
Remember who the real enemy is.
Father, forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Luke 11:4