I’ve had nightmares about demons, the Rapture, being “left behind,” and the end of the world for as long as I can remember. It’s been over 10 years since I left evangelical Christianity and these apocalyptic images and scenarios still haunt my sleep, still cause me to wake up gasping for breath. When I was mired in evangelicalism, I believed they were signs from God. Clearly He was convicting me over some unconfessed sin. Something so scary had to be a warning to repent.
I know now this isn’t true. “Spiritual PTSD” is real. The trauma of being told over and over that you aren’t good enough, that you will always fall short, and that there is no way to ever be absolutely sure you’re getting in to Heaven, finds a way to manifest. Prodding people to be “convicted” is just another way to guilt and control them.
There is trauma, too, in being told there are demonic forces out to get you: constantly lurking around the corner waiting to trick you, waiting for you to slip up. If you aren’t careful, Satan will use them to get a “foothold” in your life. A small slip-up can turn into literal damnation. There was no theological nuance, no sugarcoated version for children.
I haven’t written poetry in a long while, but I wrote something this week for my 11-year old self, who was fixated on the idea of “spiritual warfare” and for my present self, who is still trying to let these harmful ideas go.