Hiding Places

Exorcising the demons of childhood.

| Fall 2018

  • Fear is the lump found upon a loved one’s breast, it’s the sudden awareness of something horrible on the brink of happening, and it’s rooted in the black, murky waters of helplessness.
    Photo by Getty Images/Meshaphto
  • “You’re safe here, Johnny.” She put her hand upon my trembling shoulder and whispered firmly, “Look behind you. There’s nothing there.” I wiped my tears and looked. “They know this is a Christian home,” she added, softly. “They can’t harm you here.”
    Photo by Getty Images/Jaysonphotography

If you’ve never wondered if demons can enter your body through the nasal cavity, then you grew up different then I did. Your Sunday mornings likely resembled Saturdays: blissful, homebound, relaxing in ways that over-starched dress shirts under the oppressive weight of wool sweaters, were not. My Sundays were spent on hard pews, which, alongside the flagellation of my Sunday-morning fashion, seemed to be intentionally designed to snuff dozing and encourage wide-eyed, sermon absorption. But these tricks were far from necessary. Not when words like “Spiritual Warfare” rained down from the pulpit like Dresden firebombs with a splash of brimstone. See, Spiritual Warfare, for those of you who didn’t honour the Sabbath at an Evangelical Missionary Church, is the name for the ongoing, invisible battle between angels and demons raging around you at all times.

For it is written: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around you like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

On those Sunday’s when the focus lacked the military strategy one might need in such a battle, I would tune out the slow, rolling murmurs of the sermon, and open one of the leather bound Bibles that rested, eagerly, in the pew before me. I would skip ahead to the last pages, the Bible’s climatic finale: the Book of Revelation. Here was my intel, the prophetic field reconnaissance that laid out, step by step, how the culminating battle would unfold. I would read and re-read every gory detail as to how Satan would manifest, consuming it like religious erotica — endorphins firing, pointer finger quivering as I traced each vicious verb. I read and re-read every detailed, symbolic description of lamp posts and sealed letters, trying desperately to crack the code given to me. Clues such as how to identify when the world would end, and how to equip oneself against the schemes of the anti-Christ. It was exhilarating, brutal, and I couldn’t believe I was allowed to read it in Church.

For it is written: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

This was the pillar to my faith, and as far as I was concerned, there were demons everywhere, just waiting to whip inside my body to remodel. Although, the battle plans were laid out for me, 8-year olds make poor soldiers, especially when vivid imaginations are paired with an invisible enemy.

I remember my mother finding me, crying on the stairs in the basement. I had been asked to grab something from the dim, demon-ridden corners of the furnace room and was absolutely sure that I had stumbled into a hotspot of hell-bent hooligans, casually leaning against the furnace like common hoods, smoking cigarettes, waiting to mug my helpless soul. I tried to stay calm, but the throbbing feeling of evil incarnate rose at my neck, screaming behind me, causing me to run up the stairs. Careless haste grabbed my heals and sent me toppling forward, shins careening into the sharp edges of the basement stairs.