I am angry. Very angry.
Well, at least I was.
I came to a boil when I read the words that generally said in an article on deliverance that fighting Satan is no harder than taking out the garbage.
That it’s merely something you might not want to do, but it’s your responsibility, so go for it.
Oh, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Because you know, Jesus something or other.
The man who was nailed to a cross to bleed to death because of evil has your back.
So forget about it.
On the evening of the day that I read this – I won’t stoop to calling it nonsense – I heard the same statement made in a lecture.
It must be in the air.
Nothing frightening about Satan. Oh, no. He’s a peach. A pesky peach. But a peach, nevertheless.
And earlier in the day, at a Bible discussion class, I sat gobsmacked at the assertion that if you asked the average person on the street, they would say that Satan had free will.
A bag of trash with free will.
This is the best our church can do with this subject?
(I’m very proud of myself for limiting myself to only one question mark.)
Concerning the matter of evil having free will I asked, if it is free, is it free to commit good deeds for the sake of goodness?
I didn’t hear anyone say, YES!
They tried, I’ll admit. But then came the, Satan would only do something good so that he could do something evil to you when you fell for it.
That’s free will?
That’s nothing to be frightened about?
My noon intercessory prayer is dedicated to the work of the International Justice Mission. They do things like save children from slavery – of all kinds – and restore land to widows who had it snatched from them illegally. Things like that. Social action with real meaning and even more real results.
For a while, I prayed on a different issue every day. But that was very inefficient. I found myself going into shock about a matter; then the next day, going into shock about another matter; and so on. It was quite a disruptive process for the middle of every day.
The way I pray these prayers – although I should admit that these prayers and really visions of the most intense nature – is an unusual way for me. I listen to the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy sung while I close my eyes, and let the roller coasters of these prayers have their way with me.
I’m not an amusement park fan, and I really don’t like roller coasters, though I’ve been on them. I have children, after all. It’s one of those things that mothers do, like pushing a stroller up the hill at the National Zoo, because I WANT TO SEE THE PRAIRIE DOGS.
And these prayers are hard. They are especially hard because the individual prayers are hard on their own, and then they just get strung out, over and over and over and over.
One after the other.
Day after day.
I found myself one day at the feet of God, on my knees, asking him, Please tell me what I can do.
And almost immediately the nature of my visions changed.
They became even stranger.
They had started out strange, but in the early ones I was just an observer of the strangeness.
After I made my petition to God, I became part of the strangeness. An actor in the action. A participant.
I immediately changed my process and prayed the same issue for an entire week. Or even longer.
And that helped.
The prayers became like stories that I not only prayed, but watched agog at it all. Things rose up, were addressed, were resolved.
So I will tell you about one of these journeys.
Sex trafficking is a recurring subject. It’s here in Guatemala. It’s over there in Belize.
But an especially loud scream went up for what was happening in the Philippines.
Normally, the missionaries would seek out women and children who were kidnapped and forced to work at brothels. There was a physical place where men would go. It could be identified. It could be penetrated.
But in the Philippines the focus had shifted and many, many sex traffickers were stealing children and broadcasting their sexual abuse of them over the internet.
A very fast growing industry.
So I appealed to God before I “went in” to let me focus on the men. Not the children this time. I wanted to see what I could do about the criminals.
Well, I prayed my noon prayers. I took off my glasses. I set the chaplet going. And I sat back.
I just settle in as I listen to the opening prayers. The Lord’s Prayer. The Creed. While I hear the spoken words, I just whisper the name of the location to myself.
And then the music begins.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
And I was off.
I landed in a dark street with many alleyways going off of it. I remember all the stairs leading up into houses. Not a few steps. Long stairways. And it was dark. A few low streetlights. It was damp.
I chose a staircase and sat down on one of the steps.
And they came.
They roamed the streets. They were comfortable with each other. Busy with their business.
They were in the form of wolves.
The first night I just sat there frozen in fear. They didn’t detect me. They were too focused on what they were about.
The second night I stayed standing in the street. It took a while, but eventually they noticed me. And they didn’t like what they saw. So they came up to me. Individually. Slowly. First one. Then another. Then another.
A gang formed around me.
I was relieved that I didn’t urinate on myself. In reality.
That’s how frightening it was.
My heart pounded. I shook.
It was not a pleasant experience.
My discipline through that vision was to look up, over their heads. To focus on a point on the horizon that I only pretended existed.
If I looked down and into their eyes, saw their teeth, I think I would have cried.
And this was only a vision.
Not reality. Not where Satan is supposedly just something like an inanimate object that you have to move.
The next night I tried again. This time as they crowded around me, they must have determined that I was not a threat to them. I had nothing in my hands, after all. And I stood very, very still. Which took work. Even for a vision. The focus I had to maintain was exhausting.
As the prayers went on I became able to move about. At first only a few steps. Then more and more until I was able to walk about, not exactly with them, but through them. Through their paths that they were on.
There was no contact between us.
Finally, I came with a canvas feed bag hanging from me. Inside the bag were small dog biscuits. And I began to toss them to the wolves. They didn’t seem to mind. They caught them, or found the ones that had landed on the street.
And that was the vision. Which last for about a half hour.
Toward the end, the biscuits seemed to have an effect on them. Their pacing became slower. They started to lie down, right there in the street.
They seemed like dogs in front of the fire after a hard day’s work.
So the next night I asked God, What were in those biscuits.
And he answered.
The body and blood of Jesus Christ.
So during that vision I had to unscramble my experience and try to understand how consuming the body and blood of Jesus could tame wild beasts.
We associate that act with a sacrament. A special act done in holy places, and done by holy men.
Given to people who prayed every day to become holy themselves.
Not to wolves.
Tossed at them by me in the dark and the damp, in the street.
Falling into their mouths.
Falling on the ground.
It felt obscene.
So I asked.
These “biscuits” – what they are made of – are meant to heal us internally. To calm the waves of evil that can rise up in us.
Still the waters, as it were.
Which struck me as funny.
Some Christian churches don’t believe in this sacrament.
Some demand that you be a baptized member of a church to be “allowed” to receive it.
Another church has even tighter restrictions than that.
But this is not about that.
This is about garbage bags. And fear. And free will.
What I saw was not forgiveness.
It was grace.
The direct result of the sacrifice God made.
The sacrifice of his son.
And the very, very real nature of evil.
If fighting Satan is no more difficult that performing a daily chore, then why is there so much sex trafficking in the world?
I don’t see evil diminishing in our culture, our country, our world.
And just that frightens me to my bones.
And facing it, fighting it, does not strike me as something I can do while whistling a tune and thinking about what to make for dinner.
If we don’t respect evil for what it is – in its fullness, or what it can do to us, how can we appreciate the Passion of Christ?
What he really did for us?
Which is not to provide us just with something pretty to watch and be part of, but to save the world.