I’m Not Afraid of You Anymore!

Credit: Richard Goldschmidt on Wikipedia via Creative Commons

Credit: Richard Goldschmidt on Wikipedia via Creative Commons

 

I read the Stephen King novel Carrie when I was eight years old. It terrified me. Dean Koonz, John Saul, and the King were my authors of choice, at an age that was far too young for their stories. Nightmare on Elm Street and Tales from the Crypt were favorite pre-teen series’ of mine. But Carrie held a special place of terror in my world, and this story above all others represented everything dark, scary, and twisted. Abusive mother, nasty religion, teen angst and social torment, blood and sex and murder and supernatural ability all rolled up into one ghastly story. I shuddered every time I picked it up, but picked it up again and again. If it was scary, creepy, or involved the supernatural dark side, I was all about it.

Until I became a Christian. Apparently those kinds of stories are “inappropriate” for followers of Jesus. I was handed a worn copy of This Present Darkness and told this was a “baptized” kind of story that dealt correctly with the dark forces of our world. After awhile the stories in those old books and movies sent a chill up my spine. Carrie became the archetype of all the terrible and frightening stories I’d exposed myself to at too young an age.

Over time the realization that darkness is a real thing, that demons exist and Hell is real, settled into my soul. I became afraid of so many things – my darker emotions, romantic love, emotional attachments (called “soul ties,” very bad), creativity, science fiction and fantasy, the supernatural. Anything that hinted at a spiritual reality other than the Holy Spirit was locked in a chest of untouchable truths. Fear was the only correct response to darkness, despite all of our “victory in the blood of Christ” rhetoric.

Never mind that my “darker” emotions turned out to be the result of a temperamental disposition mixed with poor coping skills and a lack of self-care. Or that affection and deep love are actually encouraged in those who follow Christ. Forget all the truths about God that can be learned through fiction and fantasy and fairy tales. How do you approach a supernatural God when you are discouraged from exploring the supernatural?

Slowly these lies came into the light and I was able to challenge their hold on my belief systems. I picked up Tolkien’s books again and found beauty and truth and wisdom and understanding through the fictions. I faced my emotional demons, and they didn’t consume me. I allowed myself to begin to love people deeply again, and discovered I did not in fact end up being washed away on a sea of codependent dysfunction.

In the past few years I have pushed the limits of my fear even farther. I began watching “Supernatural” and have been astounded by the encouragement, story-telling, and creativity I’ve derived from the show. I’ve increased my reading tenfold and am rediscovering a love for stories that remove me from real-world settings enough that I am open to otherwise hidden truths. So when Carrie was re-released this month I decided to face this last, gripping symbol of Fear. My coworker loves all things scary and jumped at the invitation to see the film.

I was insanely nervous the day we went. I strongly considered backing out all day. When the time came I slunk into the theater, popcorn in shaky hand. When it was over all I felt was…sad. It is a really tragic coming of age story that ends in destruction and desolation. I wasn’t scared once through the entire film. I was just so sad.

As I thought about it over the next few days, I was thrilled to have this final specter exorcised from my memory. No more vague, twisted darkness when I think of the story of Carrie White. But I was also driven to pray for all those kids out there who are changing, growing, becoming adults who have no one in their lives to guide, protect, counsel, or teach them. All those isolated teens who are bullied for being “weird” or ignored. All of the foster kids and gang bangers and underage sex workers. So many teens living out real horror stories every day. I don’t need to believe in boogeymen or even demons to admit there is much darkness in the world.

Then I remember. There are so many light bearers in the world, people fighting for justice and freedom and peace for those caught in the dregs of the bottom of the barrel. Organizations and individuals from every religious and political background working to rescue victims of the darkness. In their light the shadows flee. Each of us is invited into this fight against the darkness, and it’s a fight that can be won.

This is the lesson I learned from facing my fear and watching the film Carrie. The reminder to be a light-bearer for those who are lost in the darkness. And to thank God for all the other light-bearers out there.

 

 

 

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