The Devil's Playground
Playgrounds are meant to be fun. They offer slides to zip down, monkey bars to swing across, teeter-totters on which to bob up & down, parallel bars to dangle from & penny-drop off, sand boxes to play marbles in, and plenty of much needed joy and laughter.
I have very fond memories of the playground I grew up on.
Lincoln Elementary School, in Glendive Montana, had the largest swings my little eyes had ever beheld. In fact, they were so popular that the school had to implement a rotation schedule to ensure each class got a chance to swing; otherwise the older students would monopolize them.
I remember a specific time during recess on a blistery winter day. My friend and neighbor, April—a high school student at the time—was walking through the playground on her way home. Excitedly, I asked her for an underdog, to which she graciously obliged. I felt like the coolest kid alive; swinging high and carefree, and laughing . . . so much laughing.
If only all playgrounds were so innocent...
As scary as the devil's playground is, it is imperative that we talk about it. It is essential to recovery that we come to know our enemy; that we recognize his tactics. If we do, we will soon realize that his stratagems are also cyclical. As impossible as it seems sometimes, we can come to recognize them, and with the help of our Savior we can launch a counterattack. The fact is, Satan does not battle head on, and as soon as we stand tall, turn and face him, we begin to gain the upper hand.
Part of this process is learning of the exact moment in our rituals that we lose our agency. Often times when we slip or act out we come out the other end of it wondering what happened; wondering where our choice went and how it had so easily escaped us.
There is a point in which we fully surrender our agency to the dark one.
We must identify it so that we can completely avoid it.
Imagine a playground with a slide, much like the one pictured above:
- The playground where the slide is found - We enter the playground when we leave the protective wing of our Savior. When we stop working our dailies, stop working the steps and stop focusing on recovery. This is when pride sets in and we feel we can survive without Him for a time. Sometimes we are just lazy and other times we are blatantly rebellious.
- The slide represents our crave, our ultimate fix, or acting out. It is our lust. The initial tug isn't that strong as we stare at the slide from the outside of the fence, but it is there, and we are keenly aware of it.
- The rest of the playground equipment are simply distractions that we use in an attempt to satiate the crave, but in reality, they just end up feeding it. We find that even though we are playing with the other equipment to avoid the slide, we are also slowing moving closer to it. We constantly know where it is and we thirst for the frantic glances that become more and more rapacious.
- The ladder leading up to the slide beckons us toward it. It's the gateway to the actual slide. If we focus on it too much, there will eventually come a time when we can no longer withstand its magnetism. Addiction is never stagnant. We are always either moving toward it or away from it. Our mind is consumed with justification and rationalization as we approach the foot of the ladder. We hear seductive whispers in our head telling us that we can just climb a couple of rungs and still remain safe; that we can choose to not act out. We hear some truth in the words, so we do it. At this point we still do have some agency, but at this very moment we are also listening to the whispers of the adversary more than the warning screams that are sounding all around us. The chances of us actually using our agency decreases significantly with each rung we climb.
- The landing at the top of the ladder is the threshold at which we lose our agency. We often linger here for a long period of time as the hot internal battle wages within us. The warning screams are mere whispers at this point and the once seductive whispers of the adversary, now deafening screams. They tell us that just one trip down the slide won't hurt; no one will know, we can repent after, that if we do this - the crave we are slave to will go away and we'll be free. The taunts are endless.
- The descent is mechanical, robotic like. The path we choose so often simply because we have chosen it before. The Spirit leaves us as we sit down, preparing for the descent to the bottom. The initial push to gain momentum provides a rush of anticipation and, once moving, there is no looking back. We cannot stop mid descent.
This cycle is the same every time we act out. Our playground's look different, yes, but the ritual is the same. It is up to us to determine where the gates to our individual playgrounds are and then strive to completely avoid them; even dismantle them if we can. We must be honest with ourselves and admit that when we enter the playground, even though sometimes out of seemingly innocent curiosity, we fall.
Every. Single. Time.
The devil's playground will not, under any circumstance, ever be safe for us.
Our safety lies in the rest of our Savior where we find happiness, joy, connection, love, hope and nurturing. We find feelings of value and worth, and we come into a great knowledge of our divine purpose.
Let us never give up
.... and always get up
Let us remain in the safety of His fold
... of His love