I’ve never been much for being scared out of my mind by horror flicks or haunted houses. I don’t need trumped up Halloween lure to find myself terrified. And I am hardly fond of demon talk and exorcisms and such. Yes, I know it’s all true and real and all that. But my mind does of a heck of a good job of scaring me on its own.
Want to scare me to death? Put me in front of that show “Monsters Inside Me.” I’ll succumb fairly early on to the assumption that I too am being eaten alive from the inside out by some unknown brain-dwelling parasite or amoeba or leech (I live in the tropics, none of this is that far-fetched at this point), and that the pain the corner of my right knee is actually a sign that I am on the brink of a wretchedly painful death.
So when I slumped into the into chair at my hormone specialist’s office last week after a morning of losing the mental health battle on every front, it is no surprise that the image I had in my mind was of me as a small girl, pixie-ish, waving a too heavy sword at a fanged, foamy-mouthed, seven-headed hydra monster. The monster that lives inside me.
She is grief, and post-traumatic stress, and anxiety, and depression, and cross-cultural stress, and justice fatigue, and now, oh joy of joys, she’s grown a mood disorder head. Just like the famed monster of ancient myths, each time my diminutive form chops one head off, another grows in its place. “Oh, you’re dealing with your grief well? Well, here’s some bloody-fanged childhood issues for you to take on in its place.”
The doctor is talking about my fertility cycles and progesterone levels, when I open my mouth and let the monster out. She spills quickly into the air between us. “I am having debilitating anxiety and panic and spend about 75% of the little energy I have trying to convince myself to get out of bed and stay out most days.” The room stills. The qualified, compassionate woman on the other side of the desk readjusts to the circumstances, and responds just as I need her to. Within days, I am on the right medications to weaken the monster and seeing relief. The heads of the hydra are beginning to wag a bit, move more slowly, at the very least, I do not feel on the verge of being devoured in the next half-hour.
But I am still so tired and not sure I have any fight left in me. I still am pretty sure I am losing this battle.
Which is why this Gospel is enough to send me into a full-on panic attack faster than an episode of “Monsters Inside Me.” When the demon is cast out, it roams around looking for a new home, doesn’t find one, so comes back, finds I’ve done the work of cleaning my place up, and moves back in with seven friends. Well, shit, Lord.
I mean, does God know how hard it is to live sane inside a human body on this here earth in such a time as this? Because I am a girl wandering through the world with a seven-headed monster inside her that drugs are just barely keeping contained and this is not hopeful news you have just laid down, Good Sir. I am working so hard to just keep the demons at bay, sweep up the place and get my crap in order. And you are telling me they’ll just take a little jaunt and come back, take a look at the newly arranged digs, decide they like them, and plan a party with friends? What does that leave me with, like a 54 headed hydra or something? I don’t know, and I have not much use for math, Biblical or otherwise, but I’ll tell you one thing. It definitely leaves me getting eaten alive.But then the Lord takes off my hyper-fixated OCD blinders (Oh, why, hello to you, head number 57, or whatever you are.) and pulls my eyes up a few lines. And there I find him talking sense again. Thank you, Jesus.
You see, as scary as Satan and his little minions are, the kingdoms of our spirits, of our minds, can only be taken and plundered by an enemy stronger than the one who guards them. And by the rite of baptism, which my feeble brain did nothing to merit, Jesus stands guard at my castle. And he stands there talking smack to Beelzebub. (I bet he even says his name over and over again in funny variations of syllabic emphasis, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Yep. He challenges Satan to try to defeat him when he comes at him all jacked up into a million broken down versions of evil with his sad, dreary little minions. He cannot stand because he is divided amongst himself. Satan can’t even figure out who he really is because there are too many versions of himself to decide between.
So, essentially, the more little buddies that sad freak show comes back to my castle with, the quicker he will fall. The more heads my hydra grows, the more I can stand behind Jesus and stick my tongue out at her. Because however odd his way with words, however mystifyingly bewildering his ways to me, there is one thing I know about my God. He is strength to my weakness, he holds when I come unglued, he is sword raised and smack talk when I am weak-kneed and barely breathing.
So see me here, sweeping the demon left-overs right on out of my castle while the seven-headed monster writhes just beneath my diaphragm, threatening to cut of my breath and knot my throat closed any minute now. And see me say, “Come at me, fools. Jesus is in the house. He says crazy shit, but he’s got game. And you’re going down.”
Colleen C. Mitchell is the author of Who Does He Say You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels (Servant, 2016). She’s wife to Greg and mother to five amazing sons here on earth and five precious little ones in heaven. Colleen and Greg are foreign missionaries in Costa Rica, where they run the St. Francis Emmaus Center, a ministry that welcomes indigenous mothers into their home to access medical care. She works out what it means to trust Jesus, grieve well, and live a raw faith at her blog Blessed Are the Feet.