When I was a kid, there weren’t many things I was afraid of. I never went to sleep at night terrified of the monster that lived under my bed, or creatures that lurked in the dark. My mom wasn’t a big fan of horror movies, haunted houses, or scary Halloween costumes. Growing up, you could say, our household had a very low tolerance for terror.
And I’m not complaining! I’m grateful my mom hated horror as much as she did because it meant I slept better at night! I didn’t have nightmares about Freddy Krueger or the weird guy with the hockey mask and chainsaw because, well, I didn’t know they existed. For the most part my dreams were simply that, dreams. I rarely had nightmares.
But when I did, they were always featuring the same monstrous beast. No really, he was a beast. Back in the eighties there was this ridiculously cheesy crime show called Beauty and the Beast. Yep, you read that correctly, a crime show named after a Stockholm syndrome fueled fairy tale. It featured the buff lady from the Terminator movies as the modern day beauty fighting crime alongside a strange beast-man named Vincent who lived in the sewers. (Perhaps, he lived next door to the Teenage Ninja Turtles. Who knows? What was the deal with eighties heroes living in sewers, anyways?)
My mom loved this show. I have no idea why. She also loved Kenny G, the soap opera Santa Barbara, the movie Beaches and shoulder pads in ALL her flower-patterned blouses. Maybe Beauty and the Beast can simply be added to the list of poor eighties judgment. (And Kenny G, if you happen to be reading this, please don’t be offended. You inspired a lot of freshman boys to get perms and join the school marching band in the name of being cool. No one saw that coming. Well done.)
But back to Vincent. I was terrified of him. He was a large, hideous beast and the very sight of him on the small screen would cause me to run away crying. Even though my mom tried to reason with me that Vincent was in fact the good guy on the TV show and that I should never judge a book by its (or in this case, his) cover; I couldn’t be convinced. This guy was bad news. He was out for blood, and to be more specific, my blood.
One night, when I was four years old, I awoke from a nightmare involving Vincent hunting me down. My heart was pounding, and my little body and my wound-up nerves simply could not calm down.
I decided that night I would play it safe, just in case Vincent had any more plans up his sleeves to hijack my dreams. I did what any four-year-old child would do in my situation. I planned, of course, to sneak into my parents’ bedroom and fall asleep in their bed. Let’s be real, there is no safer place for a child after a nightmare than sandwiched between mom and dad. And that night, I had every intention of sacrificing my parent’s good night of sleep for the sake of my own emotional wellbeing. Girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
I grabbed my Blankey and my stuffed animal Harry. With my comrades in hand, I left my room into the dark hall that led to my parent’s bedroom. It was a long, scary trek, but I was determined. I knew if I could just get to my parents, I would be safe, completely and utterly safe.
But then, just as my hand grabbed the doorknob of my parent’s bedroom door, my brilliant plan was SABOTAGED! The door wouldn’t open! I simply couldn’t understand this unexpected turn of events, but there I was outside my parent’s door in a complete state of panic, all alone and unprotected by the dark.
And then it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, at the other end of the hall, there stood Vincent. He was a giant of a beast, his huge nostrils flaring and his sharpened fangs exposed. He was looking right at me. Our eyes met, and I knew I had just entered a life or death stare down. He was waiting for his moment to pounce, to attack and destroy. And I knew if I wanted to live through the night, I simply could not give him that moment.
With my eyes still fixed on his, I huddled up against my parents’ door while clinging tightly to Blankey and Harry. We were in this together now, the three of us, and I needed all the support I could get! I told myself, “If I can just keep my eyes open, then Vincent won’t attack me. As long I don’t look away or fall asleep, then he can’t harm me. He’s waiting for me to fall asleep. All I need to do is stay awake. Stay alert. That’s how I’ll stay alive.”
And so as terrified as I was, with tears streaming down my face, I stared the beast down. The minutes turned into an hour. I was exhausted. I just wanted to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. I refused to close my eyes, and I refused to look away. The beast may have found me, but I wasn’t going to let him destroy me.
The next morning, my mom opened her bedroom door to discover her youngest daughter asleep, curled up next to Blankey and Harry on the hallway floor. My mom woke me up, and when I told her what had happened, she felt pretty bad that she didn’t hear me during the night. To make up for it, she decided to make me homemade pancakes and hash browns for breakfast! A mother’s guilt usually results in some good food, and that morning was no exception!
Even better than the breakfast, was my new view of Vincent. After that night he never invaded another one of my dreams. He no longer had the same power over me that he once did. I had stared down the beast, and I was still standing. He may have been my personal foe, but he was now my defeated foe. And well, a defeated foe isn’t really all that scary.
Now years later, as an adult, it is worth mentioning that I don’t believe that Vincent himself, alive and in the flesh, paid me a visit when I was a little girl. He was a figment of my imagination and an opportunity for Fear to wrap its slimy, tight grip around my impressionable mind. And yet, I remember that night, and how I felt and how real Vincent was to me at the time. More importantly, I remember the lesson I learned from that night: When facing the enemy, one simply must KEEP THEIR EYES OPEN.
Today, I’m no longer face to face with Vincent, but it doesn’t mean I’m not staring down new and equally as intimidating beasts. And my guess is so are you. And when opposition, or challenges, or darkness itself flares its nostrils, exposes its fangs and poises to pounce, the real question is: what are you going to do?
I’m not going to run. I’m not going to look away. I’m not going to close my eyes. I’m not going to allow myself to be distracted. I’m not going to give into a state of spiritual slumber. And I will not surrender. I will never wave a white flag to a defeated foe.
And neither should you. You were not made to cower in fear before the powers of darkness, the work of opposition, or the tough reality of challenges. You are a child of God. You have been rescued and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and it is His blood that now flows through your veins. You are the light of this world. The Spirit of God resides in you. You have been chosen by Heaven and marked with eternal destiny. You serve the Living and Victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Did you ever stop to think that perhaps the powers of Hell are actually more afraid of you than you could ever be of it? Maybe they aren’t afraid of you… yet. But the moment you fully embrace who you are in Christ and live your life from that reality, well, that is the very moment darkness cowers before YOU.
So keep your eyes open and your head held high. Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Stand firm on the Word of God. Stay awake and sober minded through prayer. Find your own comrades, people of faith and love, to hold on to. God is with you in the long night, and He will see you through to the morning. Trust me, morning is closer than you think. And when morning comes, I promise you this, you will never see the beast you stared down in quite the same way. For one thing, you will never be intimidated by his presence again.
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.”
-1 Peter 5:8-9 The Message Version