The Green-Eyed Demon

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.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Young Mom

    Yes. I remember being so afraid. I used to have what think were stress panic attacks, and my dad attributed them to demons. It was terrifying, sometimes they wouldn't go away when I prayed, only when my Dad prayed. I felt like such a bad christian.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    How comforting. Have you ever heard stuff like, "The Demon of Gluttony", "The Demon of Laziness", etc, blah blah blah.Its all just made up excuses to blame someone or something else. The stuff you talk about is a bit more sinister though. Something born out of the need to control the subjects of a religious cult or any group for that matter.Thanks.

  • Libby Anne

    Young Mom – I don't think people realize how unhealthy it is to make young kids – or anyone for that matter – that scared of demons. The unknown becomes terrifying. My mom used to pray demons out of the kids when they were sick. Did she have any idea how terrifying that was? Probably not. Incongruous – The funny thing is, my parents weren't in any specific cult or group per se. There was no overpowering pastor, no small clickish home church, none of that. For my parents, it wasn't about control – it was about what they genuinely believed. And they genuinely believed in demonic warfare.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Sweet! Another category.

  • Libby Anne

    Incongruous – I wonder if it's an unconscious category. I'm guessing someone (or likely many someones) way back when emphasized the idea of demons, either to shift blame to them instead of humans or to control people through fear, and then others passed those beliefs on through genuine belief. Jeez, now I want to read a history of the Christian conception of and belief in demons, because I can bet you it changes a lot over the years and between groups.

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Such is how I see much of the Bible, in its current incarnation – everyone's best explanation of who they see as God and his orchestrations of current era events. We maybe have some very weird ideas that may or may not be true because they were passed along and sort of stuck with the culture until they were accepted as fact.Five things I would put into that category (not an exhaustive list by any means):1. Spanking / Beating children2. Slavery3. Gender roles, esp. pertaining to women's4. Homosexuality5. Accepting people named "Libby Anne"

  • Libby Anne

    Now hang on there, my name in its longer form goes back to the ancient Hebrew! And it looks like this: אליזבת אן LOL. But of course, your interpretation of how we got some of those things (especially things like slavery) jives with me way more than the fundie interpretation, and it's much more interesting, isn't it?

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    Right on.So, the "fundie interpretation" is that what is written down is perfection and should thus be striven for copying?I always like to point out the simple references in the Bible that tell us to stone our children for talking back to mommy and daddy. Or, the prophet, Jeremiah ( I think that's it), telling his listeners that he couldn't wait to see his enemy's children dashed against the rocks.Among others, the way we look at life is (hopefully) much different now. If not…RUN like freaking heck!

  • Enigma

    My father told us the exact same thing about how our home was protected as long as we stayed under his authority. To this day i worry (irrationally and against my better judgement) that the choices i make are somehow invoking bad energy or demons. My dreams used to be full of them. How did our parents not realize that stories like that were horrifying to children?

  • Libby Anne

    Enigma – "To this day i worry (irrationally and against my better judgement) that the choices i make are somehow invoking bad energy or demons."Yes! If' I'm in a bookstore and I see a tarot card display, part of me wants to go look and see just what are these things my parents thought so evil, and the other part of me says no no no, if you do you will be inviting demons into your life. How is it that simple picture covered cards can evoke such fear in me? It's completely irrational and I fight it, but that doesn't mean I still don't feel it. And as to your last question, I have no freaking clue. Surely parents should be able to see how scary those stories would be to small children!

  • Gloria

    Ugh. It's horrid to see that level of anxiety being so common. For me, I was afraid of burglars all my life- like deathly afraid. I did the same thing- lay awake, and listened in frozen fear. This continued well into my adult years- until I finally went for therapy to work through my childhood issues. During that period of time, they briefly flared up and got worse, but have since disappeared. After a recent blow to my self worth/self image, I had a nightmare about it again, and finally realized the correlation- it was my psyche expressing the violation of self, and I haven't had an episode since.Seriously- the level of fear and anxiety that children in fundie homes live with is unforgivable.

  • Freedom

    When I was 8, I watched The Wilderness Family. From that point on I was terrified of the dark because I was sure wolves were going to scratch their way into the house and devour me. My bedroom was thankfully on the second floor, which gave me some measure of protection, I hoped. Maybe my parents shouldn't have let me watch The Wilderness Family, because I am still afraid of wolves, even today.My point is, children have bat-crazy imaginations. I hardly think parents are to be blamed for "fueling" their nightmares. I came up with MY nightmares all by myself.

  • Libby Anne

    Freedom – Yes, children have crazy imaginations, and yes, it's not necessarily the parent's fault when the child has nightmares (as every child does), but *that does not mean the parent should encourage them.* Did your parents tell you that wolves could indeed scratch their way into the house and devour you? I think not.

  • May

    Don't worry about the tarot cards, you're not missing anything. Astrology, all that stuff–it's like a bad pop song. Unlike religion, it's not even interesting to study from a secular perspective. It's just mindless pulp.

  • Aemi

    Back when I was younger, I was also terrified of demons. I would lie in the dark, arms flung over my face, scared of the demons in the room and unable to have enough "faith" to scare them away. Finally one night I turned on the light and flipped through my Bible, trying to find a passage about protection. I found and read Psalm 91:4. Then I suddenly knew that it is not about me; it is about God. God had made me His child and he would guard me. I went to sleep and have not been afraid of demons since. THAT is faith. Faith is not something you *do*, but something God *gives* you.

  • Man from Modesto

    Hi, Libby.
    It is even more complicated than you think. The demon that came in through rock music? It can keep returning, even after being cast out- as long as the rock music is there. It gives a right.
    One thing a small child does that adults sometimes forget: never give up. It can all become an adventure! Peace.