"Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God." -1 JN: 4:1-3
Many false spirits permeate our daily experience. Our popular culture and media are among the powerful forces that can influence who we believe we should be, what kind of success we should achieve, and what defines our worthiness. Colored by these messages and our personal life history, we may begin to embody these beliefs in ways that push us to strive for fulfillment by the standards that the world sets. Or on the contrary, we may be “inhibited” in our life choices because we don’t believe we are worthy of authentic meaning and purpose. It is so easy to carry these messages with us from day-to-day like a loaded backpack. We are so used to carrying this weight; we don’t know any different. Without question, we accept these false spirits as gospel truth as they direct our lives in ways beyond our consciousness.
In today’s first reading, we are invited to test the spirits that infiltrate our thinking and being. We are reminded that not every spirit belongs to God or will lead us to God. I don’t know about you, but these messages can be so easily present from my very waking moment: “You are not going to get that list completed today. You know that you are what you accomplish.” Or while looking in the mirror: “You look like a mess; hard to capture beauty in that.” Or at other times: “You should be a better spouse, parent, co-worker, sibling, friend, etc.” Because I am so hurried to prioritize that list of things I need to do to feel accomplished and “busy," I don’t always pause to “test” these spirits. Are they really from God? Where are they rooted? When they are held up to the light, do they hold any truth? When I sense these thoughts guiding my actions, it is helpful to take even just a few minutes to silence myself to look at these messages with God - as an outsider, without judgment. Are these from you God?
In the coming week, pay attention to the thoughts/messages that magnify false spirits in your life. On a park bench, on your morning commute, on your favorite couch (or other desired spot), offer these spirits to God. What do you hear?