I laid in my bed terrified, my eyes tight closed. I was afraid, petrified of what I would see if I opened my eyes. Everyone else was asleep, and I could hear their quiet breathing. My ears strained, listening for any sound out of the ordinary. All was still. And yet, I could not shake that niggling feeling that if I opened my eyes, I would see a demon at the foot of my bed, small, hovering, green-eyed. Those green eyes terrified me, and yet I had never actually seen them except in my vivid imagination.
Of course, that vivid imagination of mine had been stoked by Bible stories, books by Frank Peretti, and tales from my parents friends about seeing demons in person and rebuking them.
One friend of my mom’s told about how her daughter’s rock music had brought a demon into their house, and that she had confronted it at night in a dark hallway and rebuked it in Jesus’ name. I was taught that invisible demons and angels are constantly battling all around us every day, and that if we could see them we would be terrified. These demons, which tempted and plagued us each individually, could choose to become visible at any moment. Yet my parents told us children that our house was protected by God, and that demons could not enter. Still, I knew that something as small as rock music or an unclean book or even an unclean thought could invite demons in unawares.
And so I lay in bed, alert, listening, and too terrified of what I might see to open my eyes. Over and over again I practiced what I must say if I saw a demon, under my breath so as not to wake my siblings. In the name of Jesus, be gone. In the name of Jesus, be gone! In the name of Jesus, BE GONE! I knew that a demon must leave when a Christian rebuked him in Jesus’ name – that was in the Bible. My mother told us because of Jesus, we didn’t need to be afraid of demons. And yet, I could never feel entirely safe, and there was a reason for that.
You see, one day while reading through a Bible I stumbled across a passage that scared me to death and never let me feel completely confident about the possibility of facing demons.
Acts 19:13-16 – Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
This passage taught me that invoking the name of Jesus was not foolproof. In fact, someone could invoke the name Jesus to rebuke demons, and then still be beat up by them. The difference, I surmised, was that these men used the name of Jesus but were not actually believers in the name of Jesus. So the name of Jesus was not enough – you also had to actually believe. I thought I believed – I had prayed the sinner’s prayer – but I was still terrified that maybe, deep down, I did not.
And so I laid in bed, refusing to open my eyes, terrified that I would see a green-eyed demon, and that I would rebuke him in Jesus’ name, and that he would laugh in my face. I could already visualize it. I could practically see the demon hovering over the foot of my bed, with his green eyes, laughing at me and proclaiming that I only thought I was a Christian. I never contemplated what might come after that, because the thought was so horrifying.
Sometimes I heard footsteps in the room as I laid with my eyes tight shut, and I would lay there petrified, completely terrified, until I finally realized it must be the cat. One night when I knew the cat was not in the room I heard footsteps, and very convincing ones too, and I lay in my bed in sheer terror refusing to open my eyes until I finally fell asleep. The next morning I realized that the noise had been simply the patting of a mostly-deflated balloon tied to a bedpost and responding to the air from the fan.
And so I strained my ears for any sound of footsteps, any rustle out of place. The silence, punctuated only by the breathing of my siblings, was deafening, but the feeling of absolute dread did not dissipate. As I laid there terrified, my eyes closed and my body tense, listening for any sound out of the ordinary, I prayed for the morning to come, for the light to come streaming in my windows and take my fear away. In the daytime, the idea of demons was never so scary; it was only at night that my imagination took wing and my fears carried me away. But at midnight or one in the morning, daylight was still hours away. And so, at last, exhaustion took me, and I drifted off into merciful sleep. After all, I was only eight.