Sitting on my bathroom counter is a picture of a woman who though I have never met, inspires me beyond measure. I look at her every morning as I get ready to greet the day and as I retire to the comfort of my bed at the evening’s end. Behind this snapshot, there is the story so surreal, that I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. To the observer this picture is merely a woman standing in front of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. It is the third largest cathedral in the world, and the small figure in my photograph stands dwarfed in its shadow. As we walked through the piazza on the day represented, the sound of goose-bump-inducing opera filled the air. Before we even saw her, the melody of her divine voice caught our ears. As we rounded the corner the sight of her precious unassuming frame caught our eyes. Seated on the ground before her was a crowd of listeners enjoying the impromptu performance. It was truly a treat for the senses. As I stood watching and listening, I became aware of the grace and power, humility and quiet courage, all blended together, that seemingly flowed from deep within her. As her voice rang out, tears welled in my eyes. The beauty was overwhelming and unexpected. And just as unexpected was the abrupt, ugly, mocking interruption that came from a balcony, four stories above. Much to my astonishment, and more to my dismay, a real-life operatic enactment of the age old, epic battle between good and evil began to play out before my very eyes. This older man with the way-to-snug, white undershirt stretched across his bulging belly, leaned out of his window, opened his loud mouth, and erupted into the most horribly mean-spirited singing I’ve ever heard. He spewed out his own jeering rendition in response to her sonnet. The more she pressed on, the louder he got. He was undeniably under the influence of way-to-many alcoholic beverages.
Despite this madman’s attempts to discourage and defeat her, my precious woman-in-the-picture pressed on—much to the crowd’s pleasure and applause. She was determined—a woman of persevering strength, focused on her passion and her purpose. There was no hesitation, not even for a moment. He could not dissuade or stop her, no matter how hard he tried, and boy did he try. She pressed on holding her head high, doing what she had set out to do that day.
This real-life earthly event perfectly portrayed the spiritual battle taking place in the heavenly realm, and all around us, every day. So often the enemy, aka the devil, takes aim directly at us. The moment we’re doing what we’re gifted for and called to do, evil steps in to discourage us. The mocking voice seeks to cause doubt, spewing, “You’re not good enough,” and, “Why even try?” It says, “Just give up, nobody cares anyway.” Lies, lies, lies—meant to keep us from all the blessings God has in store, and all that He wants to use us for. The enemy’s tactics are outright ugly, like the man behind the scenes of my picture. But we shine brightly when we press on, determined to trust in God. Persevere, stand undefeated; don’t let evil win. God’s approval is what matters most; It’s His applause we seek, but sometimes in the process others will take notice and cheer us on with encouragement too.
Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
(This is an excerpt from "Confidence and Crowns: Devotions for a Daughter of the King.")
The Duomo towering above the Florence skyline.