A war rages within us. In this combat, as in all earthly struggles, it is essential to possess the proper tools: ammunition, strategy, composure, and the appropriate armor. But there is no such thing as "an army of one". Perhaps the most important resource a soldier has are his fellow soldiers.
It's no less true in the realm of spiritual warfare. For some reason this is a hard lesson for me to learn. I began the fight with the immaculate armor of the Heavenly Host, bestowed on all recruits through baptism. For some years I suppose my role was as a new soldier - “rear detachment” - safe from the more threatening effects of war. The battles that did come my way were not very difficult. My armor held, and the ammunition seemed in endless supply. I was pretty good on my own. Or so I thought.
But then I was called forward to the front lines, into the trenches of spiritual warfare. It did not take long for me to discover how inadequately prepared I was. I leapt into this combat eagerly, even rashly sometimes. How many times I was wounded only God knows. Struck, beaten, knocked down, and with now pierced armor, I made the gravest of errors. The Enemy had found the weaknesses in that armor, and that is precisely where he struck.
Time and again he brought me to the ground. But did I seek cover? Did I humbly acknowledge my weaknesses and seek the help of my fellow soldiers in order to fall back so I could heal and regain my strength? No. Far too often in the spiritual fight I have refused such aid. I was foolishly content to continue fighting in a manner that we referred to in my Army days as “combat ineffective.”
The trouble didn’t end here, though. We deceive ourselves if we believe that sin can ever be “private.” Sin is always personal, but it is never private. One of our society's biggest problems is not being able to distinguish these two things. Every sin we commit harms the entire human family. As I flailed in the pain, confusion, and fog of spiritual warfare, I sometimes inflicted wounds on those around me by damaging my relationships with the very ones offering me aid. It was akin to “spiritual friendly fire.” How much of the focus God was perhaps willing them to place on fighting the Enemy did they instead have to divert to me?
And so, today I reflect on this urgently important lesson God keeps trying to teach me. I am not alone. No one is. The Devil relentlessly tries to convince us we are. Paul knew better when he wrote:
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
That escape is always connected to loving communion with others. Pray for me and I'll pray for you, ok? We need each other in this fight!