Confronting the demons of the past…Part II

“But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

~John 11:10, English Standard Version

“I need you to do some homework before our next meeting,” the counselor told me, “Write down everything that you can remember and bring it with you so we can discuss it.”  Write down everything?  That request haunted me.  A few days before the scheduled appointment, I pulled out my notebook and just started writing.  I began with the events that I could remember and, as if an invisible hand propelled me, I began writing events in which I had little to no recollection.  Words began to pour out on the page, and with those words a renewed sense of horror; how on earth was I going to read all this back to her? I remember sitting in her office, trying to make myself as small a target as possible, pain welling up all over my body, reading the list in a slow staccato.

I will never forget these words, she told me, “I know where you are headed, and in the end this will all be worth it.”

With each word, I could feel myself emotionally detaching from my body.  It was an eerie feeling, but one that I had become accustomed to over the last twenty plus years.  When I had finished reading, my expression must have betrayed the panic I was desperately trying to conceal, because, and I will never forget these words, she told me, “I know where you are headed, and in the end this will all be worth it.” In retrospect, no truer words have ever been spoken to me.

One of the most crucial aspects of confronting the demons of the past is to bring them into the light.  Evil thrives in darkness and as long as it is allowed to remain hidden, these ghosts will continue to intrude into the present and peace will never be accessible. The longer I held onto my demons, the more distorted my image became as I began to internalize the lies of the enemy.  I was not lovable.  I was evil, a sinner beyond redemption.  Jesus would never condescend to die for someone like me.  The longer I stayed in isolation, the more believable those lies became.  Jesus warns that “if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (ESV Jn 11.10).  What my counselor did by making me write down memories of the abuse and read them aloud was to bring what was hidden into the light. No longer did I need to stumble around in darkness, for, by speaking these words, I was now walking in the light (ESV Eph 5.8).

Le Fanu illustrates this need to bring the hauntings of the past and into the light as part of the story of Sir James Barton in The Familiar.  Barton first became acquainted with this ghost from the past while walking along, late at night, on a darkened street.  Hearing footsteps behind him and a rising suspicion of being followed, he turned to confront his pursuer only to find no one.  Collecting himself and stifling a rising superstitious fear, Barton hurried home and did not stop until he was safely behind his locked door.  The next morning, the following note arrived:

“Mr. Barton, late captain of the Dolphin, is warned of DANGER.  He will do wisely to avoid -Street…If he walks there as usual he will meet with something unlucky-let him take warning, once for all, for he has reason to dread.  THE WATCHER” (Le Fanu 38).

Despite the fear the letter evoked in his imagination, he, out of stubborn pride, dared not share the correspondence with anyone, especially his fiancee.  The devil had easily convinced him that to share this experience and the fear it caused would be to betray a fatal weakness of character (Le Fanu 39).  Instead of confronting this evil manifestation head on, Barton chose to live with the thought, even though it “haunted him pertinaciously, tormenting him with perplexing doubts, and depressing him with undefined apprehensions” (Le Fanu 39).

This initial contact came out of nowhere and caught Captain Barton off guard and unprepared to actively resist.  The best he could figure to do was to comply with the warning stated in the correspondence and avoid the street in question.  Paul, in his letter to the Galatian church, warns that if anyone is caught in a sin, it is the responsibility of those around him to restore him gently (ESV Ga 6.1).  In her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Beth Moore takes a close look at the word caught:

“One of the definitions of the Greek word prolambano describes sin like this: ‘catches the individual by surprise, suddenly, without notice, i.e., before he is aware of what has happened’…several other versions translate caught as ‘overtaken.’ After catching his prey off guard, then the enemy does all he can to make the victim feel completely trapped…” (37)

This is exactly what happens to Captain Barton.  After awhile he begins to feel confident that he is safe from any further harm and chooses to walk the same road home.  Again he began to grow nervous and uncomfortable, the irritation of this invisible pursuer becoming intolerable, and when he finally reached his front door his nervous state was at such a peak that he could not even think of retiring for the evening (Le Fanu 40).  To confirm his supernatural fears, the next morning the following letter arrived:

“You may as well think, Captain Barton, to escape from your own shadow as from me; do what you may, I will see you as often as I please, and you shall see me, for I do not want to hide myself, as you fancy.  Do not let it trouble your rest, Captain Barton; for, with a good conscience, what need you fear from the eye of THE WATCHER?” (Le Fanu 40)

This particular contact drove Captain Barton further out of spirits, and yet he continued to stubbornly hold on to his secret.  As the haunting persisted, those around him noticed a marked change in his physical appearance and attitude; even when this haunting presence made itself known in front of several of Barton’s close friends, he still persisted in his silence.

Beloved, there is so much emotional pain bound up in silence.  There is nothing Satan loves more than when we hold our secrets inside and fight desperately to keep our silence.  James tells the Church that we must confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed (ESV Ja 5.16).  Confession brings the darkness into the light and allows the healing power of God to take hold.  The light cleanses from the inside out, purifying that which was once tainted with sin.  During a time of spiritual assault, Satan works hard to engage in mental bombardmentphoto-1447619297994-b829cc1ab44a, never giving his prey a moment’s rest to be able to reflect on the truth of God (Moore 39).  During this time of attack it is not uncharacteristic to feel spiritually numb, powerless, and even, in some instances, addicted to that which Satan is using to haunt (Moore 44, 48).  By seeking out those who are living in the spirit and confessing that which is haunting, we can begin the process of restoration; a process that begins when we pray for one another (ESV Ga 6.1; Ja 5.16).  I had never felt such incredible release as I did when my counselor had me speak the hauntings of my past into the light; and I can honestly say there truly is power in the prayers of the righteous in bringing restoration and healing  (ESV Ja 5.16).  Step out in faith and experience what it means to be free.

Works Cited

Biblegateway. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles. 2001. Web. 12 July 2016.

Le, Fanu Sheridan.  In a Glass Darkly. London:Wordsworth. 1995. Print.

Moore, Beth. When Godly People Do Ungodly Things: Arming Yourself in the Age of Seduction. Nashville:B&H. 2002. Print.

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