In an effort to broaden its message the Church of England has banished mention of the devil from the vows parents take when their children are baptized.  Far removed from the hideous,  red, horned, sulphur reeking image of Christian history, the satans that devil me are extremely shadowy and phantom-like. They are not quite fully formed but are filmy skittish creatures that bob in and out of consciousness. They are more unnerving than scary.

Just as in the Bible my satans have names that testify to their character:  I’m not Sure, What If, You’re not Good Enough,  No One Will Like That, and You’re too Old. These attack at vulnerable moments such as when a new creative idea or when plans of a new adventure are just beneath the surface. They rise up to spoil the view of a beautiful moment when the world is shivering with newness and promise. They drag me back to experience the ravages of failure and uncertainty. They tell me that no sane person could possibility believe in God after looking at the mayhem described in the morning newspaper.

I wish my devils were horrible looking creatures with pitchforks, flaming eyes, horns, and long scaly tails. I could confront them head on and extinguish them or at least give them a fight to the death. My satans are too clever for that sort of role-playing. They are able to form themselves into beguiling forms of doubt, uneasiness and paralysis. They whisper, “Who do you think you are to try such a stunt?  No one will listen to you. Don’t be silly. Why should you stick your neck out? Who cares anyway? You will only feel betrayed. Aren’t You Tired of Being Ridiculed?”

These enemies posing as friends have been around long enough now for me to recognize them and what they are about. They are skillful at disappearing and then reappearing at the most crucial times.  I cannot wait them out. They gain strength from the shortest hesitation. They manage to worm their way into the tiniest crack. They are not only tenacious but they are relentless. These devils sap my energy and enthusiasm. They caution, “Wait. Let someone else step forward. Why do you want to become involved? You have done enough. People will understand if you walk away.”

Conquering these devils is far more difficult than removing the offending words from a vow. What the serpent unleashed in the Garden of Eden is doubt. Doubt is insidious. It lurks and shows itself at the slightest hesitation.

I remind myself and my tormentors that I was not created to be fearful. My creator crafted me to walk boldly into each day and face each moment as it presents itself. With God I never have to face my fears alone. My wife has a favorite scripture verse that she has taught me. “But perfect love casts out fear.” I do not know what is coming around the bend, but I know that I can handle this moment. If I keep my focus on the present not wishing for the future or living in the past, I can walk through it.

When my faith grows weak, I lean into the faith of brothers and sisters who hold me up in my weakness.  Their faith strengthens me and grows my faith. We need to hear each other”s stories. We need to hear that others have walked these dark alleys and have emerged stronger. Communities of faith are designed to help us strengthen one another.  Scripture tells us, “That two are better than one…. If either of them falls down, one can help the other stand up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV) Rev. Amy Butler says,’There’s significant power in sharing our stories with each other. When we have the courage to name the pain we carry, we find out that soon enough that we are not alone. And knowing that we’re not alone often uncovers enough courage to take the next step in a painful situation.”