Lately, my toddlers have been very afraid of various things. My two-year-old son is afraid of the dark. My four-year-old daughter is suddenly afraid of a bunch of things, from shower nozzles that look at her to creaks on the stairs, and she tells me her dreams, in which a flaming skull is floating in the sky in a scary way.
It’s sometimes easy for us grownups to just dismiss these fears as childish things and tell children that everything is fine and they should quit worrying and, for the love of all that is holy, just go to sleep already.
And yet, my husband just recently came off a brutal work schedule — 6 pm to 6 am — and I remember some nights, after I got the baby asleep, I would lie awake for a while and listen to all the creaks in my 99-year-old house. And then I would sigh and get up to recheck the locks and make sure everything was all right.
Just in case.
In a way, we know from the time that we are young that there are monsters that prowl around and that we ought to be careful. G.K. Chesterton once wrote this:
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.
There are no such things as dragons, mind you — not the monstrous ones that we like to envision. But there are all sorts of monsters and things to worry about, and rightly so. And we need to teach our children that, yes, bad things exist and it is all right to fear them, to a certain extent. But no, we are not entirely helpless. There are things that we can do to face our fears and deal with the challenges that come to us on a daily basis — be they scary shower heads or scary bills that arrive in our mailbox.
And, for the monstrous things in our lives that we cannot fight directly, we can pray to God.
And so, to demonstrate the power of God and His ability to destroy evil monsters, I told them about St. Michael the Archangel, whom God sent to help protect us from the hidden monsters that we might not be able to see, but that God could see. I shared them the prayer, which goes like this:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
And then I showed them this picture:
It is a picture of St. Michael the Archangel defeating Satan.
It’s really a perfect picture for my toddlers because — look! Satan appears to have a flaming skull head! This is practically my daughter’s nightmare that she dreamed up, weeks before I even found out that this picture existed!
And look how Satan is depicted! He has eyes and toothy all over his body in a strange and unnatural way. The smiles even look happy and friendly, until you realize that this is Satan and he would rip you to pieces if you give him the chance. And isn’t that just so fitting? There are so many temptations to leave God that seem so delightful… until you actually go through with the sin and then realize that you are now trapped in your own personal hell.
His body is also made of an assortment of creatures, to emphasize how strange and unnatural he is. He chose a life without God, and thus he is distorted, as sin and our choice to spurn God distorts and transforms us all into monsters. So he is made of lizard creatures, spiders, snakes, dragons, strange birds, and dogs… as well as a flaming skull.
But Satan is not the focus of this picture. Instead, look at St. Michael! He is strong, dressed in medieval armor, every chain link intricately drawn out, as a knight to emphasize that he is fighting on God’s side. On one arm, has a shield with a red cross, to denote his allegiance to God, and with the other arm he holds a lance that pierces the mouth of Satan in what would be a killing blow. His wings are gloriously arrayed in color to remind us of the splendor of God. And he appears in every way to be the champion of our King and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Satan is evil and terrifying: there is no doubt about it. As I said earlier, demons are not nice and they hate us absolutely. Satan would like nothing more than to annihilate us completely. And he can… if we let him. As Saint Peter said in his letters:
And yet, God is more powerful than Satan. And He has come down to us and saved us from our sins through the person of Jesus Christ. He gives us the chance to be one of His own adopted children.
And we should never forget that.
This should give us hope. This should give us a reason to not despair, even when things seem really bad in our lives and evil seems all around us. Yes, there is evil, and yes, sometimes it chokes us until it seems hard to even think straight.
God loves us.
And that might seem to not be enough sometimes when we’re struggling through the difficult periods in our lives. Nor do I want to trivialize these trials: sometimes, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when everything wrong that could possibly happen seems to be happening… usually all at once.
And yet… God loves us.
As we grow in faith, may we continue to reject Satan, sin, evil, and all of Satan’s empty promises. And may we grow to love the Lord all the more.