Jesse’s English teacher is requiring his junior students to read six books during the course of the year and write a report on them (and this book-loving mama is cheering!) The genre they needed to choose from this month was a non-fiction book that was not a biography. As we perused our bookshelves and I made recommendations, the book he chose was Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story by Mark Ritchie (my review of the book is here). I forewarned him that the first couple of chapters were very hard to read: the book is written from the shaman’s point of view, and his conferring with his spirits is disconcerting as is the brutal attack of one village on another. But I told him it was recommended by a missionary we knew and trusted and supported and it did get better as you went farther along.
But it had been almost three years since I had read it, and I had forgotten exactly how graphic it was until he shared some parts of the book that disturbed him. As I picked up the book and flipped through it again, I wondered if I had made a mistake letting him read this book and whether he should switch to something else.
I was still pondering that yesterday morning as we drove to school, and I asked him if the book was getting any better. He said yes, and we discussed some of the good aspects, some of the reasons I had recommended the book in the first place — the need the Indians felt within themselves for change, the difference they saw in the lives of others, both white people and other Indians, who believed once the gospel began to be spread. We discussed the presence of evil spirits and how they operate behind the scenes in our culture as well as primitive cultures though they are mostly unrecognized here. We discussed the sickening exploitation of the Indians by others who wanted to prey on them. We even discussed the funny parts, such as how the Indians came up with their names for each other, wondering what names would be attributed to us if we followed their example.
Something we didn’t have time to talk about this morning but I want to bring up soon is what missionaries have to face when they go to such fields — and, really, not just such fields where demonism is open and obvious and rampant, but any area where the gospel is opposed. The admission that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” in Ephesians 6 is immediately followed by the admonition “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (verses 12-13). I want to discuss how that truth is not just for missionaries; it is for all of us.
I shared with him a familiar verse from A Mighty Fortress Is Our God which stood out in bold relief to me as we sang it in church Sunday:
And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us.
Though, if I had it to do over again I probably would not have recommended this book yet, I am glad that his exposure to some of these things came from a book headed in the right direction such as this one and that we could discuss these issues.
I don’t think we have to wonder how and when to expose our children to the darker side of life. I think somehow it breaks out upon their awareness all too soon — a news report, an awful happening in the community, something that comes up in a TV show that we’re not expecting. I wish we could keep them innocently sheltered in the Hundred Acre Woods much longer, but unfortunately that is not real life.
Sometimes the weight of the evil in the world is so heavy and oppressing. I cannot fathom how Christ bore it all on the cross.
And we have to be careful not to just lament what we think of as excessive evil “out there” while we excuse what we think of as our relatively minor sins. Some of the things the Bible says the Lord hates are pride, lying, wicked imaginations; envy, strife, and divisions are what the Bible calls carnal. Those added to that weight of evil Christ bore as well.
“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” the Psalmist asks in Psalm 130:3. Thank God he answers, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” And “thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4).