Guest Post: Sneaky Satan Tree Root

December 3, 2016

Originally from the East coast, Rachel and her children now live in Bountiful, Utah. Rachel’s lifelong passion has been making the world a better place for children. She currently works as the children’s advocate for a local domestic violence shelter. She enjoys watching superhero shows with her teenagers and reveling in the delights of all things dark chocolate.

Satan is tricky. And a stinkhead. And a deft manipulator. He can take a good thing and twist it into harm. In fact, it’s because of that old trickster that King Benjamin’s admonition to “watch yourselves”¹ has taken on new meaning to me.  I used to think it was a “Watch it!” kind of watching; with the finger pointing and the stern face of an adult confronting a child precipitously close to proclaiming a lie or caught with her hand halfway into the cookie jar.  But now, I hear in those words a protective tone.  It’s like the “Watch out!” call from a lead runner who notices the tree root on trail and warns those behind him. I think King Benjamin could be calling to us to watch out for the sneaky ways Satan can get into our heads and (like that tree root, seemingly out of nowhere) trip us up – and trip us up good. On the trail we end up with bloodied knee or palms, or perhaps even a sprained ankle.  In Satan’s game we can end up spiritually lost and destitute.

I got pretty lost myself.

I was living in Utah, and had been there for only a year. I had come across the country for a “dream-come-true kind of marriage”. We had been sealed in the Raleigh, NC temple and two weeks later loaded up my belongings and four children for the three-day drive west, full of hope. Sixteen months later I was making my bed, a suicide note by my lamp. In my confusion, in a final effort to provide some order to my children’s lives, I had wanted to make sure my bed was made before I died. Even though I was convinced I was the ultimate failure, and the only way to prevent that failing from seeping out and staining the lives of my children was to leave them in the hands of loving, competent grandparents. My rationale came from the words of a prophet; reminding parents that their greatest achievement lies not at the office but in the hearts of their children, President David O. McKay once said “No success can compensate for failure in the home.”

“Divorce papers delivered to your door and two of your children now living elsewhere; that looks like failure to me,” whispers Satan.  Trip.  “Failure in your home?  Why that’s the ultimate failure. You couldn’t keep your family together, guess that makes YOU the ultimate failure.” Trip.  “You gave it your all and it wasn’t enough. You’re not enough.  It’s that simple.” Trip. Stumble. Crash.  As I’m lying face down on the dusty trail I hear, “Remember, there’s no success that can ever make up for what’s happened here.”

My aunt rang me while I was making my bed. I was tempted not to answer the phone, but I had promised the Lord if she called in time, I would answer.  My aunt saved me that day, but my Savior had saved me already, in a Garden long ago.  Bit by bit I began to feel His love again, I began to trust in His love again.  I got up off the ground. I was broken, bruised, and hurting all over, but realized I was never, ever lost beyond hope or repair.  I am still broken and bruised. Sometimes I hurt all over.  But that’s okay, because “I know in whom I have trusted”².

I know that the words of Christ, found in the scriptures and through the voices of his prophets, are meant only to encourage and inspire, even when a bit of chastening is necessary.  When I feel discouragement or despair in response to a verse or a quote I do two things.  First I read further, to make sure I understand the full meaning and context of what is being said.  If that doesn’t reframe my thinking, I label my thought as a Sneaky Satan Tree Root. I choose to lay it aside, to walk around it. I keep a watch out for signs of love, hope, and encouragement.  Those are trail markers I give heed.  Will Satan succeed at tripping me up again? Maybe.  But not for long, not for good. I know I am never too lost to be saved.

1. Mosiah 4:30

2. 2 Nephi 4:19

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3 Comments

  1. Sel

    December 3, 2016

    I’ve had experiences where the scriptures and quotes from General Conference have been a huge boost and guide, and other times where I’ve flogged myself with the scriptures and GC because I was “obviously” a failure, it said so right there…

    The sneaky tree root analogy is wonderful. I am glad you’ve made your way through those dark, snaring times, and for sharing your experience.

  2. Rachel

    December 3, 2016

    Thank you SEL. Shame loves silence. I think it’s so important for us to have safe spaces to share our struggles and feelings of not being good enough. I hope our churches and sanctuaries, and especially our homes can be such places of discussion and acceptance, insight and love.

  3. Mel Y

    December 3, 2016

    Thank you for sharing such a tender experience–that takes a lot of courage. I love how your perspective changed on the “Watch out!” phrase–how the feeling of it changed. There are so many times when I feel myself interpreting things through the flawed lens of my own experiences, and I know it may not be the message that was intended but I have difficulty disentangling everything. Truth comes in such fragments, it seems.

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