“Don’t you ever tame your demons / But always keep them on a leash.”Andrew Hozier-Byrne, “Arsonist’s Lullabye”
What are demons, but fallen angels? Hellhounds are dogs subjected to abuse and neglect. Wounded, abandoned, rejected, oppressed, these vulnerable creatures develop defenses so they might survive their pain, just like the rest of us. There’s one thing I know about wounds, and it’s that they can heal. With proper care and treatment, they can even heal without blemish. Others, when neglected, may fester, spread toxicity, and in some cases, kill. Again, I ask, what are demons, but fallen angels? Wounded, without proper care.
For this reason, I decided a while ago to engage with mine.
Attachment challenges, emotional abuse, fear, anxiety, broken relationships, envy, family dysfunction, disordered eating, low self esteem, alienation, perfectionism, sexual assault, trauma, sexual assault, trauma, sexual assault, trauma, ptsd, rejection, shame, grief, disappointment, failure. These are the hounds that have pulled my sled for decades. I used to pretend they didn’t exist. First, I misidentified them. Initially I called them love, discipline, need, responsibility, punishment. After a while, I decided to sanitize them. That was tragically ineffective, but I thought that the Blood of Christ would make them all disappear, like a Magic Eraser. This is when the fissures in my belief system first appeared. The eraser didn’t work, but maybe, I could open the latch to a basement and stuff them in there. They howled at me, though. I tried to ignore them–to cancel the sound behind muffs. That didn’t work; the sound was inside me. Finally, I decided to release them. I couldn’t let them roam freely, however. I had to secure them, somehow. They were hungry. They were tired. They were cold and afraid. I fed them, clothed them, warmed them, and now they go with me. They no longer guide my sled. Now, I guide them, gently, along the journey. We collaborate. We forge through the blizzard. We survive as a team.
The church taught me to hide. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Has that ever worked? Do bullies stand down when their marks run away? Do combatants drop their weapons when their foes stand down? Sometimes. Maybe? Life taught me otherwise. When I was 16, I told my boyfriend I didn’t want to engage in any sexual activity with him. He put his hand down my pants, anyways. I pulled at it. I tried to remove it. He didn’t flee.
I tried to resist.
As a religious person, I cloistered myself within the umbrella of God’s protection. I wouldn’t call it an umbrella, though. I find churches operate far more like castles–fortifications. I thought the castle walls would restrict the devil’s access. The gates would protect me from temptation, from pain. What I didn’t realize was that the demons were inside of me, so all that evil–it wasn’t on the other side of the moat. I was imprisoned in a dungeon with evil and absolutely no enjoyment. Because that is what life is like in a church community. Restrict access to all the wicked things of the world—pretend sex, violence, rage, and envy do not exist. Censor it all, and what are you left with?
Your own damn demons.
That is right. They don’t flee.
No one told me the only way to see the sun would be to guide my demons into the light. No one told me the only road to freedom was to liberate the hounds. I had to open the basement, look into their wide red eyes, and cuddle up next to them. Soothe them. Nurse them. What are demons, but fallen angels? With a little care, a little compassion, they brightened–they softened. No longer hostile, no longer frenetic, they educate me. I see their journey. I see their scorn, their rejection, their loneliness.
Repression intensifies. Oppression provokes. Compassion soothes.
This is why I left the security of the castle keep.
My demons are my trauma. It’s ugly. It’s X-rated. It’s full of impurity and wickedness. The church taught me to hide it. In so doing, it ruled me tyrannically.
Call me Pandora.
I’ve opened the box, and I am letting fly all the pain and all of the grit. The church would say I am not honoring God. I am writing a novel with vampires, sexual violence, war, and murder. The church would censor my text. Yet, I feel closer to God, closer to my fellow humans, and unashamed. To ignore the things that make us human in exchange for an illusion of celestial identity is to forget the reason God became man. He became man, so I wouldn’t have to sell my soul for divinity.
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