It’s so unrealistic and unnecessary – this anxiety I feel when I ship the kids off to the grandparents’ house. The furnace is broken. So the month of March feels the same inside as it does outside. Cold and hard. The cracks and crevices betray this old house’s aged bones. Of course the kids are better off in the warmth of my parents’ home. But I’m sitting here wrapped in fleece waiting for tomorrow’s furnace repair, and this silence that I was sure I craved feels hollow and unnatural. As soon as they’re gone I miss their noise. Silly. They’ll be home in no time. But the silence allows time for my mind to wander, to dwell on shadowy things. This anxiety I feel over their absence comes from a place of sadness and a struggle against fear. It’s brought on by news headlines – the shocking stories that make the national news and then the one so much closer to home. Two bright, little boys killed by the person whose role it was to love them most, the news sources allege. Such evil. Such putrid evil. And the heaviness of it all is difficult to brush off the soul. It’s sticky like wet, slushy snow in March. Because they’re anybody’s boys. And the darkness around our children seems mounting, leaking into school buildings and through white picket fences. If we’re so busy obsessing about the objects that carry out the crimes, we’re likely to neglect vigilance against the demons orchestrating the madness. Man-made weapons might be managed by man-made laws. But the demons pay no such homage. They’re not new to this world. They’ve been dogging about for quite some time. Before the age of gun powder and steel, they contorted their victims, flinging them into fires and against rocks. And children were granted no immunity. Satan doesn’t play fair.
In Mark 9, Jesus beholds a possessed child. All present in the chaotic scene are helpless. No physical restraint can leash a spirit from the invisible places. But Jesus can see. He knows the very demon. “’You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.’ After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead!’ But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.” (9:25-27)
HE GOT UP. That is a verse I’m singing in my heart. The 12-year-old boy in Rockford, IL. He knew Jesus. HE GOT UP. His 14-year-old brother. He knew Jesus. HE GOT UP. Their sweet faces in the photo accompanying a poignant shared obituary…Brothers. Together. They got up. The Bible tells us not to fear the harm man can do to us. Souls who belong to God will GET UP to an eternity in His presence. Not so the wicked. They will face only judgment and torment in hell. How ironic that the “father,” dead presumably by his own cowardly hand, who had 23 resume pages of professional academic contributions on the topic of Presidential pardons and legal clemency, showed no mercy on the two vulnerable children in his care. And in turn, he will be shown no mercy. There will be no pardon before the living God.
Throughout my day or week, I like to stop my kids and ask them the first question from our Catechism. “What is our only hope in life and death?” They recite promptly, “That we are not our own but belong to God.” That’s what I can give them – that hope as I send them into a big, dark world without me. They are not their own. They belong to God. Mercy, what comfort. In body and soul, in life AND in death, they are taken care of.
When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him about the demon and why they had no power to cast it out of the child, Jesus answered, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29)
Are we praying enough for our kids in this way? Are we rebuking evil in the name of Jesus? Jesus makes it clear that prevailing against evil requires faith. Our faith can’t falter now. Where evil gathers, we must be found on bended knee doing battle in realms we cannot see. And if you’re on the fence on this matter – if you wonder if Satan and demons are real culprits – I ask you to consider the level of hatred that perpetrates these nightmares and decide if “mental illness” fully covers it. If not, I invite you to start praying.
Elliot is home from his business trip now. He has gotten the finicky gas fireplace started. It will provide a little glow in a cold and dreary house. My kids are tucked in safely at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and my anxiety has met with my Savior and found His quiet answers. This is our only hope in life and death: We are not our own. We belong to God. Sleep tight.