You know, some of the things I’ve been exposed to recently are just outright exhausting. It’s easy to get involved in your surroundings, and have good intentions, but I am learning to take a step back at times and realize that some situations are just downright hazardous to my spiritual health! People with common sense would run far, far away from these environments…yet I feel a responsibility to be a pillar of strength, good judgment and Christian character in a way that perhaps some around me haven’t seen before, especially in a young woman.
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is the concept of toxic environments, and that sometimes, contaminated surroundings are the ones that should be the safest, like a church. Women are taught that what determines our character is convoluted humility, blind obedience to authority and the extremity of which we will go to over-convey modesty. In this setting, it’s easy to confuse courage, bravery and being true to your beliefs as being rebellious, pig-headed or stubborn. I’m fighting the by-product of this kind of thinking; there is a long history of women that have not only been deficient in the courage and strength God requires of us, but instead have focused on hazardous behaviors to distract themselves, (in a typical feminine reaction) passive aggressively. Similar to physical environments, it is rarely the party responsible for making the mess that ends up cleaning it up.
From the Environmental Protection Agency’s website:
“Even when used properly, many chemicals can still harm human health and the environment. When these hazardous substances are thrown away, they become hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is most often a by-product of a manufacturing process – material left after products are made. Most hazardous waste is identified by one or more of its dangerous properties or characteristics: corrosive, ignitable, reactive, or toxic.
- Corrosive – A corrosive material can wear away (corrode) or destroy a substance.
- Ignitable – An ignitable material can burst into flames easily. It poses a fire hazard; can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs; and may give off harmful vapors.
- Reactive – A reactive material can explode or create poisonous gas when combined with other chemicals.
- Toxic – Toxic materials or substances can poison people and other life. Toxic substances can cause illness and even death if swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
Ideally, hazardous waste is reused or recycled. If this is not possible, hazardous waste is safely contained while it is stored, transported, and properly disposed of to prevent an accidental release into the environment.”
I feel like the church environment I’m in right now is just dripping with toxic diseases and I have to daily arm myself in the word of God to enter and not be affected by hazardous substances like gossip, narrow-mindedness, impure motives, power struggles, self-assertiveness, family rivalries, judgmental attitudes, bureaucracy, back-biting, preferential treatment, inauthenticity and spiritual games of politics. How did the church’s moral compass get skewed from common sense and biblical decency? Did we not learn the elementary lessons of just being nice to one another and minding our own business?
When the writer of Ephesians penned the words “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil”—I never imagined he could be talking about arming yourself against your own church. But if that is where the devil is working, that is where I should prepare myself for battle through the words of Truth. On the other hand, Ephesians 6:12 talks about “Spiritual wickedness in high places,” so maybe he was more familiar with my current experiences than I thought.
But whose responsibility is it to clean up this mess of noxiousness? Paul then asks for prayer, to “Speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (vs. 19). If one is arming one’s self, it is for a two-fold purpose: to protect yourself from harm, and to do accomplish a task. Toxic waste gear is for someone to use to remove the hazardous material, not just dance around in it. I need to learn how to “quench the fiery darts of the wicked” (vs. 16); not just avoid getting burned–because both toxic waste and fire are difficult to eradicate and spread easily.
I guess whether it is a hazmat suit, or a knight in medieval armor that you picture, the analogy from Ephesians 6 is the same: Arm yourself with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, prayer and supplication, trust in salvation, the Spirit, the Word of God, and perseverance. Because dealing with a hazardous material isn’t a job for just anyone, but hey, somebody’s gotta do it.