A long time ago, someone wrote or said to me, “Animosity with God is still contact with God.” I’ve taken comfort from that at times when I’m mad at God, and at other times I realize how true it is: the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference.
Lately I’ve been realizing something key: God has the greater power in the fight. But God has been fighting a defensive war. When I realized that, I didn’t quite know what to make of it.
You can say it’s the “testing” model (as Ivy said in one of the comments, we tell Satan to leave and he replies “Good job!” because he’s only a righteous servant doing an undesirable job) but I don’t think that’s entirely it. Partly because I don’t think Satan is a righteous servant doing an undesirable job. (Doubtless we do get tested by God, but I think of it more as spiritual training so that when a real attack comes, we aren’t undone.)
If God were to bring ominpotent power to bear, of course He would win. That’s the definition of omnipotence. So why is His always a defensive struggle? Even the St. Michael the Archangel prayer is for defense. Why doesn’t it say, “St. Michael the Archangel, go out in battle and stop Satan before he can strike?” Why must we wait for the enemy to come to us and then defend, defend, defend?
This is from The Dance of Anger, by Harriet Lerner (which is not, for the record, a religious text. It’s about human relationships. If she finds this, I hope she laughs.)
When the waters are calm, the pursuer and the distancer may seem like the perfect complementary couple. She is spontaneous, lively and emotionally responsive. He is reserved, calm and logical.
When the pursuer doesn’t get “enough” response form the distancer, she pushes the distancer to share more and more of himself. In response, the distancer pushes back.
The more he distances, the more she pursues, and the more she pursues, the more he distances.
What is the common outcome of this classic scenario? After this escalating dance of pursuit and withdrawal proceeds for some time, the woman goes into what therapists call “reactive distance.” Feeling rejected and fed up, she at last proceeds to go about her own business.
I’m going out on a limb here and saying that Satan is in a position of reactive distance. That what we have here is effectively a tantrum on the side of evil, that Satan wanted God for himself and didn’t really like the idea of sharing God with lesser beings. And after pursuing and pursuing, Satan got fed up, decided God wasn’t going to give him what he wanted (ie, total ownership of God) and backed off and is now pitching a fit. “You love them? Then I’ll destroy them and you won’t have me OR them!”
As a parent, when I have a child who’s done this (pestered me for full attention and then when I keep changing a diaper or cooking dinner, pitches a tantrum in order to get and keep my attention) I do the same thing God’s doing: I protect the house and the other kids and let the child have his tantrum until he runs out of energy. In other words, a defensive war.
(This isn’t how I wrote Satan in my novel; tantrums aren’t versitile enough for characterization. In Seven Archangels: Annihilation, he’s more plotting/crafty.)
God’s a Father first and foremost. And unfortunately, waiting out a tantrum by a creature speculated to be the most powerful angel might take a long, long time. Assuming it would ever end at all.
God going on the offensive would mean Satan got what he wanted (God’s full attention and some kind of control over God) so God’s doing what any parent would right now. You take the fragile thing from the kid’s hand, and then you put him in time-out.