Years ago a friend shared something with me that his grandmother used to say:
Don’t let the devil get into the car with you because, pretty soon, he’s going to want to drive.
I’ve been thinking lately that our bodies are like the “cars” our spirits drive, only too often, we put ourselves on cruise control, and our bodies take the driver’s seat. And when the body is in control, the devil reigns.
You may believe the devil is a real being that actually exists. You may not. No doubt you’ve experienced the internal fight and opposition that seems to dog your every attempt to move forward. I experience that every day of my life. That is one way the devil appears in our lives. I believe that the devil is an actual being, the self-crowned and self-doomed nemesis of God. Go with me on this.
The way the devil has power in our lives is that we grant it to him. We open the car door and invite him in. Usually into the back seat at first. Sometimes the trunk, when we think no one is looking.
But once he’s in, he’s in. Without us really noticing, he climbs and wiggles and wedges his way into the front seat next to us, whispering commands. Trying to take the wheel. Disrespecting you as the driver of the car. Disrespecting everyone. Leading everyone who will listen to him to bring out the worst in themselves.
What people think of themselves has an awful lot to do with who drives their car. What they put on. What they eat and drink. How they treat their bodies. How many ounces of soda they drink per day. How they treat others. How many hours a day they play video games or look at pornography. What they think. What they do and don’t do.
Here’s a side note. When I was a bishop, I used to ask people to do a little two-part exercise. Would you like to try it? Take out a piece of paper and find a pen or pencil. Now in your normal handwriting, write on the paper a sentence like “I really like myself a lot” or “I am a wonderful person.”
Did you hesitate, even for a second, before you could get yourself to start writing that sentence?
If you said to yourself, “That’s stupid. I’m not doing that,” well, guess what? You’re very likely not driving the car. You are not accepting of yourself. Maybe you have taken the back seat. Maybe you’re hiding in the trunk.
A lot of people (not everyone) don’t like their own handwriting. They say, “I have bad handwriting.” Handwriting is intimately personal. It shows your individuality.
If you had the courage to write that first sentence, try the next part of the exercise. Write the first sentence you wrote one more time, but this time, say to yourself, in your mind, “I have beautiful handwriting. I have beautiful handwriting. I have beautiful handwriting.”
If you wrote the sentence again, as asked, I suspect you took a little more time to do it. Correct? And the handwriting was better in the second sample than in the first. Right?
Why? What just happened? Well, you told yourself the truth, your body believed you, and it obeyed.
Your body would like to play master. When your body is master, the devil takes power. But when your spirit is master, your body (you know who else) has to take the backseat.
If you’ve completely opted out of this exercise or the simple lesson from it, I am pretty sure you’re at war with yourself. If your defenses are up right now or you’re mad at me, then I’m even more sure of it. How could I have the audacity to say such a thing? Years on the front line of this battlefield.
Think well of yourself. Don’t let yourself think otherwise. It’s okay to look critically at your past thoughts and actions, but don’t think critically of yourself. I am not talking about arrogance—a puffed up and distorted view of your self-importance—I’m talking about confidence which is founded on the truth. And what is true? You have infinite potential. With God’s help, you can surmount any obstacle, even if that obstacle is yourself. (Actually, your only real obstacle is yourself—makes it simple, doesn’t it?)
Your past mistakes and sins are Post-it Notes, not tattoos. (And even if you have tattoos, they’re really only temporary.)
The more you accept the truth about yourself—discouraged but determined to do better, unhappy yet hopeful, unkind to yourself about your past, but willing to take up a different point of view and try again—the sooner you’ll take back the steering wheel and throw the devil from the car.
It really works. But it’s only the beginning.
P.S. By the way, I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day today—whether you are grateful for your mother, or are just getting around to forgiving your mother, or remembering a mother who passed away (like me), or you’re enjoying being a mother yourself right now, or you are mothering and teaching any and all children, especially those who are not your own. Thank you. The world desperately needs you.