A-Croc-Alypse Now, Mark

Get Behind Me

(Thinking about Lent 2B…)

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo
great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be
killed, and after three days rise again.He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get
behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human
(Mark 8:31-33, NRSV)

I spent some time Monday working on Snowman's FAFSA and other financial aid documents.

For some reason I find filling them out terrifying. I have no idea what the irrational source of my anxiety might be. The forms scared me silly when #1 Son applied to college, and it's not getting better.

Maybe I'm afraid of making a mistake, or maybe I'm afraid of seeing all the numbers in one place, or perhaps it's just the unknowable aspect of financial aid and scholarships. And this year, when I begin to think of the big picture, I think about the choices I made and feel almost responsible for the state of the world. If I had found some way to go to seminary and send #1 Son to college and Snowman to arts boarding school besides spending the money my parents left (for just that purpose, I might add), would the world have behaved differently, too?

Get thee behind me, Satan!

That's how crazy money makes me.

In a more objective setting, the church, for instance, I can read all the figures and comprehend them, but when it's personal money, there's a veil of every kind of fear and trembling you can name spread over the work to be done: I don't deserve good things. I will steer my child the wrong way. Why didn't I know sooner what I wanted to do when I grew up? And wasn't there some way I could have taken control over all this and made it right?

That's exactly what Peter wants Jesus to do, and that's exactly what gets him an earful.

"Get behind me, Satan!" Don't tempt me to take on the world's values instead of the deeper ones. Don't tempt me to think I can solve it magically instead of living through it.

We're all going to have to live through it, whatever is coming financially. It's going to hit middle-class people (which I thought I was one of, though our household income is a fraction of the $250,000 I keep hearing batted around in debates) and poor people and people who saw themselves as advantaged and those who knew they never were.

Peter didn't want to hear Jesus talking about the way the religious authorities would turn on him. Peter didn't want to think it could happen!!! And somewhere, somewhere, Jesus didn't either. I go back to my thought about the real Devil being the one we know, the one who looks just like us. If the thought had not crossed Jesus' mind, how could it tempt him?

You can come to me offering bourbon, and you will never win me over, because I have tasted bourbon, circa 1982, and once was more than enough. But offer me chocolate cake or cookies'n cream, and you are the devil I know. Tell me my son could go to law school if he gave up the clarinet and I would smile at you thinking you were just being silly, not because he isn't smart enough, but because it just isn't him. But tell me if I did certain things just right he could go to the conservatory of his dreams and I would be tempted to stand on my head to make it possible.

I know my weaknesses, I know my Satans, in their many forms, and they will continue to plague me if I don't show them the proper dominance. Sam, who loves his new cooked diet, gets rumbly now, almost growly, a little insistent, wants his dinner, wants *more* dinner, and he is accustomed to soft words from me and a deep voice from his Papa, and I must find the way to command him with my eyes and my tone. As he slowly moves into a "down," looking confused, I think of Peter, silenced by Jesus, shocked.

Could I try this with my demons, the anxieties about money, the temptation to feed the anxiety with whatever is the choice food of the moment? When a dog knows you are the boss, he relaxes and can enjoy his life more. That would be a kind of resurrection, a new life to move toward during Lent.

11 thoughts on “Get Behind Me”

  1. I really like what you have done with this, Songbird… satans as things, circumstances, doubts, rather than people (so much more true in my experience).
    May I, you know, steal this one?
    Found a great, great article on Textweek, a feminist reading of this text. It’s the front page link of the week, by Joanna Dewey. But first you have to get past her “history of feminist NT interpretation.”

  2. Let’s not call it stealing then. Let’s pretend we’re in a lectionary group together… does that work?

  3. This is powerful, Songbird. And thanks for a great illustration for my Ignatian retreat:
    “Could I try this with my demons, the anxieties about money, the temptation to feed the anxiety with whatever is the choice food of the moment? When a dog knows you are the boss, he relaxes and can enjoy his life more.”
    He has a famous part on how the evil spirit is like three things: 1) a robber baron looking for your weak spot, good. 2) a false lover (today I’d especially say abuser) who says don’t tell anyone your struggles, good 3) a woman who needs a strong hand–gag. Modern interpreters often translate 3 into a spoiled child but the pet analogy works great too.

  4. yes, powerful. and love the last paragraph about dogs and knowing who’s boss :).

  5. I hate, hate, hate filling out the FAFSA! I shall speak sternly to it when I return to working on it later this week.

  6. I love this! and hate the FAFSA and also hate business phone calls. I’d much rather e-mail.
    Apropos of nothing…

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