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Boy, bye; How I stopped being so scared of evil

 

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Illustration in my Children’s Bible

The Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent describes Jesus’s temptation in the desert. Jesus is tempted by the devil.  The devil is an instigator. He is manipulative especially as he constantly seeks to gain power. Going after Jesus is evidence of the arrogance, narcissism, egoism that comes with being evil. Jesus is able to resist. He is all powerful. Jesus demonstrates the strength and authority needed to resist temptations that we all experience. We all want to attend to our immediate needs. I’m starving so let’s turn these rocks into bread. We want youth, physical strength, and immortality. I’m going to drink my liver into disease because it feels good. Because I’m young, I’ma be all right. We want wealth and power.  Life owes me these things.  Jesus rises above those desires. He sees the ultimate goal. The 40 days have been a test. They’ve been physically hard but he has stayed faithful and strong. He is preparing for what is going to be more difficult. He is finding the discipline before he begins his ministry. Jesus does not fear the devil and sends him away like the nuisance he is.

I grew up very fearful of the devil (What I learned watching The Exorcist). I was much too young(six!) to learn about possession, that the devil was a real entity that could take over a person. It made me much more fearful than my daughter is at that age.  On the other hand, I grew up as a spiritual child. I was drawn to the Bible. I was reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Luke at age 7 because I wanted to do so. One reason I haven’t exposed to her more horror movies or pop culture interpretations of the devil is I find them scary. About 15 years ago, I made a survey and asked my friends when they first saw The Exorcist and what were its long-term effects. I continued to do other readings about exorcism. Those fears stuck with me.

r12mwvNow I’m older and I have had life experiences with different facets of evil. I’m not fearful because I know good prevails. I’ve done a lot of writing about my thoughts as I “exorcised “a “devil.” (My second career as an exorcist) I gained a lot of strength from those experiences. I may laugh when I say “the devil is a lie” and “not today, Satan” but those are true statements. I have been able to look at that evil, at that enemy, to look it in the face and say I’m not afraid of you. That’s powerful.

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Father Tomas is played by Rebelde cutie Alfonso Herrera

On a related note, while dealing with real-life drama, the TV show, The Exorcist, premiered on Fox. While it wasn’t a ratings hit, it was a critical hit and a hit in my household. We watched it every week and analyzed it. I connected it back to what I was living. I found parts of it hilarious. I would argue it is better than the original novel and original film.   Those were good but the TV show’s acting and writing took it to another level. Geena Davis was brilliant. The show explored what is happening in the church regarding the role of lay people, the role of women, and the behind the scenes politics which you may not know about if you haven’t been involved in ministry. I like that the show spoke to the power of family and faith.  As I wait along with other fans to learn if the show will get renewed, I would recommend binge-watching on Hulu or Fox. Don’t be too scared.  Y’all know who wins and who always will.

Watch Season 1 of  The Exorcist

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Jesus saying “Largate!”

 

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My second career as an exorcist

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St. Dymphna in full effect

I went into my career because of my first principles. I love to read. I love to write.  I love to share ideas through conversation.  I love to help others.  So, fresh out of college, I stayed at my beloved alma mater, despite acceptance letters from prestigious East Coast universities(mi mama was upset about that for years), to get my teaching credential.  I was 23 and I thought I was going to change the world and somehow also write the next great American novel.  I’m 44 now. I have changed many lives, most importantly, my own, and my writing is still my true passion.  I still love books and people.  So how is it that in the past few years, I have found myself in the role of exorcist.  Que?  Como?

When I was six years old(be patient, y’all who know this story), my soccer playing dad  would take us to the park every weekend so my mom could hang with her besties and all the kids would play in a huge multi-age pack.  The big kids decided we could head to one of the soccer players’ home nearby and watch a movie on the Betamax. I was introduced to the horror movie that would stay with me por vida.  I know a thing or two about fighting el chamuco and now I have real-life experiences.  (Lessons from the Exorcist)Because while the devil may be a lie, evil is real, relevant, and very much embraced by many.  Pick a city anywhere on the planet.  Point your finger at someone you know.  Evil is there, giving you the side eye of all side eyes.

Though I’m only a few years into fighting evil as part of my nine to five, I can tell you some must-dos.  In no particular order:

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Fear is normal.  My head aches. My stomach churns. My heart starts pounding like I’m six again and the nightlight just burnt out.  Accept your fear.  Feel it.  Then move forward.

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Have a battle buddy.  Find a mentor who is strong, tough, and stable.  Your mentor, like mine, can serve as your coach and partner.  This is not work you do by yourself.  You will need someone to have your back.  Work on the bond you share.  You may have disagreements but you must share the same vision, mission, and purpose.  Of course, the demon will attempt to divide and conquer.  That won’t work if your team is strong.

Take care of yourself.  Sleep (though it may be disturbed for a few days or weeks depending on the situation.) Eat clean. Hydrate.  Pray or spend time in silence.  Doing battle with evil is like preparing for a half-marathon or training for Carnaval without the glamour or fun.  A weak warrior will fall.

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Finally, believe in the good work that you do. Believe in the good person you are and understand that this other individual is a hot mess for reasons beyond your control.  If you’re a really good person, realize that somewhere underneath all that maldad, there is/was a good person who got lost along the way. Know that you are protecting others by taking on this challenge. Now let’s go get ‘em!

Ivan Drago mode

A not-so-funny thing happened on the first Friday of Lent.  I had not yet experienced my Lenten Miracle so an incident that occurred prompted a reaction more intense than You’re Ruining My Advent.  I went into Ivan Drago mode. 
Ivan Drago, for you non-Rocky franchise fans, is the foe in Rocky 4. 
He is the Russian fighting machine played by Ms. Grace Jones’ then-boyfriend , Rhodes Scholar-turned-model Dolph Lundgren.  Drago is methodical, ruthless, and cold as the Siberian tundra.
Drago’s statement of purpose
Not only was he physically superior to Philly’s finest, Rocky Balboa, but Drago was mentally Teflon.  
No heart of gold here.  In fact, you could argue Drago was heartless.  
Serving up sideeye
When questioned about the possibility that he could fatally injure Rocky in their international title bout, Drago utters his famous line, “If he dies, he dies.” 
What I could possibly gain or learn from such a character?  I know there’s value in protecting myself and handling business.  After all, I struggle with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(Marsupium Crotalus); I’ve been betrayed by those I trusted, even as recently as this year. I also struggle with fear of intimidating personalities.  I am making it a priority to tap into my fighting spirit. (#innermongoose) At some point, I need to fully commit to the professional and personal work before me.   I need to focus on completing my goals. So yes, I will go Ivan Drago if the situation warrants it.  

A fearless favorite

When I was about 5 years old, maybe younger or slightly older, I remember watching a cartoon about a mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. 
From the 1975 Chuck Jones TV special
He befriended a British family after they moved into a house next to the garden he visited.  He became close enough to them that he fought against his mortal enemies, Nag and Nagaina, a cobra couple.  I distinctly remember Rikki’s red eyes, fast moves, and gutsiness.  I remember how my heart pounded as I watched Rikki in battle.  I couldn’t help but admire an animal that didn’t fear poisonous snakes.
Fast forward almost four decades. I recently read Rudyard Kipling’s story to M. She’s into chapter books now so an illustrated version of the classic short story was a good bedtime option.  I told her how I had seen a cartoon of the story when I was around her age. She asked me if I was scared.  I told her I was but that I believed in Rikki. 
Given certain challenges I have faced recently, venomous snakes have been on my mind. (Blog about dealing with the snakes among us)It makes sense that my longtime admiration of the mongoose would resurface. 
Y que?!? 
In the last two weeks, I have downloaded and shared images, read National Geographic entries, and laughed at Snoop Dogg’s unbridled support of “mongooses.”  A mongoose is a bold and quick fighter. My research has revealed that the mongoose’s nerve receptors have mutated so that a mongoose is immune to snake venom.  
Yasss!!!!
It is undeterred by cobras, crocodiles, even lions. It embodies guts, cojones, ganas.  
As someone who tends to choose flight over fight, I admire an animal that fights with all its sleek little body has. I can admit I fear intimidating foes. I may be able to stare into cold eyes but my heart is pounding. I’m waiting on those awful fangs.  In confrontation, I choose to talk and usually(sometimes to my own chagrin)politely.  I do stand firm.  I may be cowering within but I won’t backpedal, waver, or cry, at least not in that moment of facing off against an opponent. I may not strike like a mongoose; maybe it’s not in my nature to fight like one.
Badassery in full effect
 I still believe in Rikki. I still believe we all have the capacity to fight and win against a cobra. 
#youtried