|Pea soup, anyone?|
Apart from the deeply disturbing spectacle of seeing a possessed pregnant woman, what stood out for me the most were the mind games that the demon(s) played on the exorcist and the seminarian. It's one thing if an orc-like monster with bulging eyes and blackened, clawlike nails jumps out of the shadows and seizes the good guy by the neck. But it's another to see the subtle ways he infects his victims with self-doubt, fear, remorse, guilt, and the whole gamut of debilitating, paralyzing emotions. It's another form of warfare altogether.
And it makes sense. The devil is a spiritual being, not just a lumbering oaf with horns and hooves. He is subtle and astute, a clever deceiver who has turned his immense gifts to the service of himself, excluding God, love, and all things good and beautiful. He is a corrupt genius who delights in his own perversions, exulting in the harm he can do to others. And the deepest harm he can do is not to the body: it's to the soul, to the mind, to that part of us that seeks truth and love with blind longing, like a vulnerable shoot seeking the sun. With words like acid, he can sear and wound the heart, darken the mind with despair, make lies swarm in like... well, like flies.
Depression is so common these days. There are so many young people with dysfunctions of various kinds. It would be facile to say the devil is involved in every case. But what about that inner monologue that some people experience, that constant running commentary in the mind that blames, recriminates, paralyzes...? What about young women with eating disorders who starve themselves into skeletons and still hear a voice saying, "How fat and ugly you are. No one will love you"? How much of that interior damage was caused by a whispered suggestion here or there, like the invisible hand that sets a ball rolling down a hill and then lets it fall by its own momentum?
It made me wonder. If we could strip away the veil of materiality that stands between us and a purely spiritual vision of things, how many shadowy actors would we see on the margins of our lives, or in the midst of the lives of our loved ones? How much sway does the devil really have in our communities and neighborhoods?
So much is hidden from us now. One day we'll see everything as God sees it. For now, it's a quiet but urgent reminder to stay rooted in grace, to make prayer my best defense for myself and my loved ones, and to stay close to the One whose victory defeated sin, death, and evil forever.