• Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

Stinging Beauty


"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." 2 Corinthians 11:14 (NIV)

What does Satan look like? I know, an odd question to begin with, but it’s where God is taking us this morning. So, just go with me. I’m writing this today from the 10th story balcony of a condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It’s a stunning view that centers me. The slowness of pace this vacation has brought opens my heart to rest and process life more clearly. Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day on the beach soaking up the sun, enjoying the warm breezes, and occasionally wading out into the surf. We are not huge fans of any type of water that holds things that could potentially eat us, but we waded out nonetheless. There were a few groups of people out further than us and we were certain they’d get eaten first, giving us plenty of time to run if necessary, haha. (Even when we love Jesus, survival mode has a way of overriding our desire to care for others.) The water was quite refreshing, except now and then we’d experience something that felt like sweat bee stings. They were quick and slightly irritating, but not enough to make us immediately get out.  Eventually, it happened enough that we made our way back to the sand. We could run in briefly to cool off but decided to no longer linger. No big deal, I mean, hey, we are at the beach! This morning I rose early and decided to go for a prayer walk on the beach. For me, there is no better place to talk with God. Absolutely glorious! Walking along the edge of the water, the waves would roll in, cover my toes, and quickly dart back out. They were warm and soothing.  As they retreated to the Gulf, I noticed all along the sand in front of me were what appeared to be beautiful, translucent pearls shimmering in the sunlight. They were everywhere. Now, I typically wouldn’t interrupt my time with God to look at my phone, but my curiosity was getting the best of me concerning these pearl-like objects. Especially when I noticed several of them wiggling. To Google, I went.  It turns out what was so beautifully captivating on this morning walk was the culprit of our “stings” the day before – jellyfish larvae. Yuck! I wasn’t sure what to do with this new information, but I was definitely more cautious about where I stepped. Walking along, a larger wave rolled in and I caught a glimpse of an adult jellyfish being pulled close to the shoreline. The wave brought it in quickly, too close for my comfort, so out of the surf I bounded. It too, like the larvae, was absolutely beautiful and I found myself trying to get as close as possible to snap a picture. God’s creation is so fascinating! As I made my way back to our condo, my thoughts kept returning to the jellyfish and their larvae. How could something so beautiful cause such pain and irritation?  It didn’t take me long to see the connection God was making. One of the most profound and helpful lessons I’ve learned as a believer in Jesus is that the enemy, Satan, does not enter our lives in a red suit with horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. He “masquerades as an angel of light.” He knows human nature too well and does not come at us head-on to destroy our lives, but rather is small subtle ways that lead us unwittingly off course with God. If sin, temptation, and heartache floated up next to me like the large jellyfish that rolled up next to my feet, I’d run. I rationally know this will cause pain if I get too close, even though I still tried to inch as close as I could for a look… interesting. Still, it’s obvious. Most things that pull us off course spiritually are more like the jellyfish larvae. They are beautiful, sparkly, and enticing. When we touch them they do sting and are irritating but we keep going back for more, unaware that these little stings eventually turn into something bigger that can inflict serious pain. Still, the beauty draws us into destruction. So, what does Satan look like? I think the answer is different for each of us, in that, he tries to come as something beautiful and shining; something for which our heart desperately longs. It’s not at all wrong for us to lean into beautiful things that give our hearts life. The question is, in doing so, are we brought closer to God or pulled farther away from him? God’s gifts to us, his children, will always pull us closer to him. So be aware, not all that glitter is gold. Sometimes translucent pearls are actually jellyfish larvae. For Your Reflection… What “translucent pearl” in your life is pulling you away from God these days? Ask him to show you and help you get your focus back on him.

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