I love Atticus. I discovered my first collection of Atticus poetry a couple of years ago at Target, and immediately ordered the other two collections. The poems aren’t long, most of them are just a few lines, but they are profound. In just a couple of sentences, he captures a depth of emotion that I struggle to communicate in full paragraphs. One that I’ve sent to Christina Yang before because it describes how I’ve felt many a time is this one (from The Truth About Magic):
“If I conquered all my demons there wouldn’t be much left of me.”
Now, I know, good pentecostal girls don’t admit to having demons because it’s not godly and it leads to the other good pentecostal girls gossiping about you, but if we can all just put away our self-righteousness for five seconds we could probably find some freedom in admitting that we all have baggage. If it makes you feel better to call yours baggage instead of demons, then have it your way, but it amounts to the same thing.
For people who aren’t like me and didn’t grow up pentecostal, the whole idea of demons might seem completely absurd to you. I get it. It probably sounds a little far-fetched if it wasn’t a concept that was regularly discussed around your dinner table or in your Bible study, but essentially it can be summed up as a battle between good and evil, and one of the most common battlegrounds is your mind, like you have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other and you’re trying to decide who to believe.
On some level, I think I’ve been guilty in the past of listening more to the demons than to any other voice in my life. I think this happens for a couple of reasons, with the first among them being that I’m afraid that every single thing they say is true. Every fear, every anxiety, every insecurity…once manipulated and arranged into a lie with just enough truth to make you wonder, it all sounds so believable. Every lie I have heard and internalized becomes the gospel truth to me if I listen hard enough, especially if the lies are the only message getting through.
My mom used to talk about fighting the lies with truth. She always had a scripture for me and would have me write it down, or say it over and over to myself until I replaced the lies with the truth of scripture. The summer before Mom died, I bought a Bible at the Lifeway going out of business sale based purely on the fact that it was teal green and had flowers on it. Mom loved it, and so when she and I went to the Priscilla Shirer conference a few weeks later, I got one for her too because why wouldn’t you have matching teal green floral Bibles? We didn’t monogram things because we weren’t good at planning ahead, but we could impulse buy books like nobody’s business. Anyway, today, as I was flipping the pages, I found a verse I had underlined some time a while back: Mark 1:34. The passage is talking about the people Jesus healed and the demons he cast out, but the end of the verse says something profound. It says, “…and He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.”
The thought that immediately struck me was, “So why are you allowing them to speak?”
In this particular verse, Jesus isn’t allowing the demons to speak because they know who he is, and he doesn’t want his identity to be widespread at that moment. They wanted to speak, wanted to tell the world his identity, but he had authority over them, and he decided what they were allowed to say and to whom they were allowed to say it. But in my case? They’re talking because I didn’t realize I could silence them. I’ve gotten so comfortable listening to every little lie that, just like Atticus wrote in The Truth About Magic, I’m living as if I believe that if I shut them up there will be nothing left.
I wish I could say that this eye-opening realization would be the end of it, and that I would never again be tempted to let the anxious, fearful, overwhelming thoughts run wild, but that would be its own lie. I have been in this place before, and I will likely be here again. That’s why we need Jesus in the first place, because we mess it up when we try to be self-sufficient. But having my eyes opened to the truth is a place for freedom and healing to start. I can choose to silence these lies that try to fill my mind and so can you. We can choose, every single day, what voices are allowed to speak in our own minds. You aren’t subject to them. They are subject to you. We get to choose whether or not the demons are permitted to speak. They might seem like the loudest voice, but the still small voice holds all the power.